Cooking over an open flame involves risks beyond singed hair and burned fingers. Grilling caused 3,400 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires in 2005, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, many due to barbecues left unattended or placed too close to houses.
“Get everything you need out there before you light the match because you don’t want to leave that heat source unattended,” says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing home-related injuries. Be familiar with your grill and the fuel, and have everything you’ll need at hand, including a mobile phone, in case of an emergency. Here are some more tips for safe grilling.
Distance yourself. Position the grill at least 10 feet away from the house and keep it clear of overhanging vegetation or anything else that might catch fire. Keep children safe by using masking tape to mark off a “no-play zone” around the grill.
Equipment check. Review instructions for a propane grill and check for leaks: Mix some dishwashing liquid in water, spread it over hoses and connections, and watch for bubbles that indicate leaks.
Don’t be “fuelish.” Use the right fuel and follow the grill’s instructions. Never add lighter fluid once the fire is lit; the flame can climb the fluid stream into the can and explode.
Lighten the load. Use a rolling cart to move and hold tools, food, dishes and other items you’ll need while grilling.
Dress for the occasion. Keep sleeves and clothing clear of the flame. Appy suggests short sleeves and fire- and heat-resistant mitts that cover much of the forearm, such as the Orka Silicone Oven Mitt ($15).
Add water. Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy to spritz hot spots.
Know your extinguisher. If the fire does get big enough to make you nervous, get people to safety and call 9-1-1. If you have a fire extinguisher, use it only if you’re familiar with it; this is not the time to start reading the directions.
Appy recommends First Alert’s Tundra Fire Extinguishing Spray ($30 for a two-pack). It comes in a 14-ounce can that is lighter, easier to handle and holds a lot more extinguishing agent than a traditional fire extinguisher – plus it’s nontoxic and biodegradable so it won’t ruin your grill.