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The fire-safe thrill of the grill
Jun 17, 2011

Nothing says summertime in Livonia like the smell of a family barbecue in the air. After the long, cold winter we just experienced, Livonia residents are ready to get together and have a good time, but there are some precautions you must take before lighting up the grill.

U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 7,700 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year. These fires start an average of 3,200 structure fires and 4,500 outside fires. These 7,700 fires caused an average of 13 civilian fire deaths, 120 reported injuries and more than $70 million in direct property loss — all of this from that innocent-looking barbecue in your yard!

As you might have guessed, we are in the prime season for grill fires. Two-thirds of all grill fires occur between May and September. The majority of grill fires that subsequently set fires to homes are predominantly (81 percent) gas grills. The main problems with gas grills are leaks or breaks in the gas lines that spread fire to unwanted items. Remember to keep the top of the grill open until you are sure that it has been lit. Those who enjoy the use of charcoal grills usually set fire to homes when the grill was placed too close to something that could burn.

The leading area of origin for outdoor fires that spread to structures is in a courtyard, terrace or patio. This is where most of us like to do our grilling so it comes as no surprise. A problem can occur if it starts raining. Many will move the grill to a covered area, and this is likely to become a recipe for disaster. Moving the grill too close to the house to take advantage of the eaves or inside the garage should be avoided. Since we are grilling in the nicer weather, keep a garden hose handy.

From the time the grill gets fired up until it has completely cooled down, the grill should be watched by an adult. Children will play and have fun, and may not pay much attention to the grill. Pets can also get involved with the children so keep a watchful eye on them as well. Gas grills should be inspected periodically for any cracks or leaks in the gas lines, and be aware of the gas smell that may indicate a leak. A simple solution of dish soap and water can be sprayed on the lines to help visualize any leaks. Charcoal grills should be soaked with charcoal lighter fluid only, and it should never be reapplied once the fire has been lit. Wait until the coals have completely cooled down before disposing of them.

The outdoor grill should be enjoyed as a summertime staple. With a little bit of prevention and common sense, you can make your outdoor feasts more enjoyable.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.

IAFF Local 1164
14910 Farmington Rd.
Livonia, MI 48154

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