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State Fire Marshal Offers Fire Safety Tips

By Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

With our favorite grilling holiday the Fourth of July, and with three out of five of us owning a gas grill, think fire safety first to enjoy the great tastes of summer.

“Keep it safe at the cookout,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. “Before firing up the grill, use common sense and follow a few simple safety precautions to avoid serious burns and fires.”

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, between 2009-2013 an average of 8,900 grill fires occurred on residential property each year. These 8,900 fires caused annual average of $118 million in direct property damage, 10 deaths and 160 civilian injuries almost all the losses resulted from structure fires.

“The majority of grill fires are caused by malfunctioning gas grills,” said Sehlmeyer. “In fact, six out of seven grill fires involve a gas grill caused most often by a leak or break in hoses or other equipment. So, maintenance is particularly important with gas grills to protect yourself and your family.”

Sehlmeyer said that popular gas grills are generally safe and convenient but bring into play liquid propane (LP) gas that’s pressurized and requires special handling and storage. Charcoal grills are still preferred by some people and can also be potentially dangerous when not used properly.

Before you light up the grill, remember:

  • Always grill outdoors. NEVER grill indoors or in the garage. Grills can be a fire hazard and they release carbon monoxide, a deadly, odorless, colorless gas.
  • Grill on a level surface at least 10 feet away from your house, garage, deck, overhanging eaves, branches, hanging baskets and backyard furniture. Never use a grill on a balcony.
  • Keep children and pets well away from the grill area.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher close by and know how to use it; keep a spray bottle or bucket of water handy for minor flare ups.
  • Never leave the grill unattended.
  • Don’t overload the grill with food. Excessive fat and grease dripping on flames can ignite large flare ups.
  • Clean your grill often, removing grease and fat buildup from the grates and in the trays below.
  • Never try and fight a fire yourself. Call 911 and let the fire fighters do their job.

Gas grill safety

  • Check gas tank hoses for leaks before first use each year. Applying a light soap and water solution will reveal any leaking propane. Never use a match to check for leaks.
  • If you detect a leak, turn off the gas valve on the tank immediately and don’t use the grill until it’s serviced by a professional.
  • Before filling an LP cylinder, check it for dents or gouges. Don’t overfill the cylinder.
  • NEVER turn on the gas when the lid is closed. The propane may build up inside and when ignited, the lid could blow off or a fireball can explode in your face.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call 911. Do not move the grill.
  • Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
  • When finished with the grill, turn off the burners and the propane cylinder valve.

Charcoal grill safety

  • Use only charcoal starter fluid (never gasoline or kerosene) to light the grill.
  • If using an electric charcoal starter (which does not use fire) use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • Always use charcoal grills in a self-ventilated area. Charcoal briquettes give off deadly carbon monoxide gas.
  • Let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container or soak partially cooled ashes completely in water before disposal.

To find out more information visit the Bureau of Fire Services website at www.michigan.gov/bfs or contact the Bureau of Fire Safety at 517-241-8847.

For more information about LARA, please visit www.michigan.gov/lara

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