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Fire It Up, Safely

Fire It Up, Safely

Summer means long days, balmy weather and time to barbecue. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2011 there were nearly 17,000 emergency room visits related to grilling accidents. Pulse recently spoke with Vimal Murthy, MD, director of the Torrance Memorial Burn Center, regarding barbecue safety and how to prevent burns and fires when cooking outdoors.

Fire Extinguishers

Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and know where it is at all times. Have it handy when you are grilling, advises Dr. Murthy. An ABC type of extinguisher is the best, as it will extinguish three types of fires—indicated by the letters. A is for ordinary combustibles; B is for flammable liquids; and C is for electrical equipment-based fires. Read the directions in advance so you know how to use it prior to an emergency.

Electrical Cords and Outlets

Remain vigilant regarding electrical outlets on or near your patio or in the area where you are grilling, says Dr. Murthy. Cords not only create clutter to trip and fall over, they also can cause a fire if liquid drips onto a cord that is plugged into an outlet. This can cause sparks and is especially dangerous when using a gas grill. Be certain to keep any live cords away from the area where you are barbecuing.

Blockage and Leaks with Gas Grills

Check your gas grill for blockages and leaks prior to use, stresses Dr. Murthy. Blockages tend to be the #1 cause of fires with gas grills. Grill hoses and knobs can become obstructed from insects, webs, nests and small animals. Hoses and connection sites can leak gas. If a spark or a flame comes in contact with leaking gas, it can cause a fire. Don’t forget to check behind and underneath your grill too.

Lighter Fluid

Lighter fluid can be very combustible. When using a charcoal grill, follow the package directions on the lighter fluid and the charcoal briquettes you’re using. Dr. Murthy states that injuries have occurred with adolescents who took part in a dangerous game of playing with lighter fluid to create flame trails.


Keep your grill clean and free of grease, which can be a source of ignition for both gas and charcoal grills.

Stop, Drop and Roll

If you or someone with you catches on fire, remember to stop, drop and roll. This helps put out the flames, says Dr. Murthy. Having cold water on hand is an additional safeguard to douse out flaming clothes and burning skin.

Fire Pits

Fire pits are a source of lower extremity burns for children. This generally occurs when adults cover the fire pit with sand only. Sand conducts heat, so the heat persists under the sand. “The flames must be extinguished first with water to put out the fire,” states Dr. Murthy. After that, sand can be used to cover the fire pit.

“Most people do it right,” he adds. Following these steps will help increase your level of safety and reduce your risk of injury while barbecuing.

For more information on safety while grilling, visit the National Fire Protection Agency at nfpa.org or the American Burn Association at ameriburn.org.

Categories: Health Links

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