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Outdoor Grilling Safety

June 24, 2011

Looks like we might even have some summer this year!  I’m the kind of guy who cooks on my grill even in the snow.  Most of you are not that die-hard, so I know that the use of outdoor barbecues is about to go up, and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.  There are, however, a few guidelines to observe so that we don’t wind up at your house.


We have two concerns with barbecues and grills:  burns and fires.



Let’s start with burns.

  • Long-handled utensils are great tools to keep the cook a safe distance from the fire.
  • Establish a three-foot radius around your barbecue that is kept clear of kids, pets and non-grilling personnel.  That zone is the cook’s zone.  Anyone else in that zone is not contributing to your cooking and probably won’t be as focused on the fire as you will.  Keep those folks out so they don’t get burned.
  • No loose clothing should be worn while cooking.  You don’t want your clothing contributing to that smoky flavor.
  • Lighter fluids can only be applied once; before any matches have been lit.  If you’ve already lit the briquettes once, DO NOT try applying more lighter fluid.  I don’t care how out and cold you think those briquettes are.  The tiniest ember can ignite the fluid and it will flash right back into the container you’re holding before you can even react.  It’s a sure way to get us to your house and get you a trip to the hospital ER.
  • If someone does get burned, accomplish the following:
  1. Most medical facilities (like Mayo Clinic) advocate cooling the burn area under running water for 10-15 minutes
  2. Remove jewelry or clothing near the burn unless it is stuck to the burn.  If clothing is stuck to the burn, do not pull it loose.  Leave it in place and call 911 or get the patient to an ER as soon as possible.
  3. DO NOT apply any creams or ointments to a burn.
  4. Pat the burned area dry and apply a clean, dry dressing.
  5. If the burn has blisters, do not pop them.  That’s a second degree burn and you should probably see a doctor for that.
  6. Third degree burns damage the full thickness of the skin and definitely demand medical treatment as soon as possible.
  7. If in doubt, go see a doctor.  Early treatment is much better for you than later treatment.

Fire is a real concern with outdoor barbecuing in Spokane County.  We’ve had a number of large apartment complexes damaged by fire because someone was grilling next to the building on a windy day.  Your neighbors do not want to loose their dwelling due to a barbecuing accident.  Please observe the following to enjoy a happy grilling experience:

  • A fire extinguisher is a good thing to have on hand, just in case.
  • Do not leave your barbecue untended.  It is a fire that needs constant supervision until it’s out.
  • It’s called outdoor cooking for a reason.  DO NOT fire up a barbecue, hibachi, smoker, etc. inside the house.  In addition to fire, you also have the very real threat of carbon monoxide poisoning (the number one accidental poisoning agent in the U.S.)
  • Do not grill beneath the stairs at your apartment.  That is typically the only escape route for the residents upstairs.  If your grill goes up, those folks’ escape route is cut off.
  • Do not grill under the carport or garage.  Fire on the grill will communicate to the carport or garage and a bad situation will only get worse.  The same goes for grilling under a wooden deck or under the eaves of the building.
  • Stay away from flammable vegetation (tall grass, weeds, decorative landscaping).  A little wind can carry a spark from your barbecue into the vegetation and we’re all off to the races.
  • When you remove briquettes or ashes, put them in a metal container with a tight lid and get them away from the house.  Douse them with water and let them soak for several days.  DO NOT put your barbecue ashes in a plastic bag and set them next to the house.  You would not believe how many house fires we go to for that reason.

We in the fire service love a good barbecue as much as anyone.  We just don’t think 911 is the best way to get an invitation.  Enjoy your barbecue menu this summer and keep it safe.




From → Fire Prevention

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