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Safety tips for grilling, using campfires

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POSTED: July 3, 2013 2:36 p.m.

Every year, Americans look forward to summer vacations, camping, family reunions, picnics and the Fourth of July.
Summertime, however, also brings fires and injuries due to outdoor cooking and recreational fires. Annually, there are almost 3,800 Americans injured by gas or charcoal grill fires, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Summertime should be a time of fun and making happy memories. Knowing a few fire-safety tips and following safety instructions will help everyone have a safe summer.
Grills
• Propane and charcoal grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces such as tents, they pose a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.
• Position the grill well away from siding and deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
• Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
• Keep children and pets from the grill area; declare a 3-foot “safe zone” around the grill.
• Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when cooking.
• Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Charcoal grills
• Purchase the proper starter fluid and store it out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
• Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling already have been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.

Propane grills
• Check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will reveal escaping propane quickly by releasing bubbles.
• If you determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame:
1. Turn off the propane tank and grill.
2. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
3. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
• If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
• All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill-protection devices. OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
• Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
• Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

Fire pits
In recent years, fire pits have been new concerns for fire services. Fire pits are known to be a great source of warmth and ambience. But with the popularity of fire pits increasing, fire safety has become even more important.
There are many things you should consider while setting up and using a fire pit.
• Keep away from flammable material and fluids such as gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene and charcoal lighter fluid or vehicles while in use.
• Do not use flammable fluids to light or relight fires.
• Exercise the same precautions you would with an open fire.
• Do not allow children to use the fire pit. Keep children and pets away.
• Do not wear flammable or loose-fitting clothing, such as nylon.
• Do not burn trash, leaves, paper, cardboard or plywood. Avoid using soft wood such as pine or cedar that could pop and throw sparks. Using seasoned hardwood is suggested.
• Before starting the fire, make sure that the lid can be closed to extinguish the fire in case of emergency. Do not overload.
• Before you light the fire, check the wind direction.
• Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
Campfires
When building a camp fire, follow these campfire safety tips from Smokey Bear:
How to pick your spot
• Do not build a fire at a site in hazardous, dry conditions. Do not build a fire if campground, area or event rules prohibit campfires.
• Find out if the campground has an existing fire ring or fire pit.
• If there is not an existing fire pit and pits are allowed, look for a site that is at least 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Also, beware of low-hanging branches overhead.

Extinguishing your campfire
When you’re ready to put out your fire and call it a night, follow these guidelines:
• Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
• Pour lots of water on the fire; drown all embers, not just the red ones.
* Pour until hissing sound stops.
• Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
• Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
• Stir and make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch.
• If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool.

 

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