State Fire Marshal Urges Springing Safely into Summer

“The Memorial Day barbecue may be smaller this year,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, “but we still need to practice safe grilling as we celebrate the unofficial start of the summer season. Take a few minutes for a safety check and inspect grills for leaks and cracks, and teach children to stay three feet away from any grill in use. Follow the Governor’s guidelines for social distancing and have a safe Memorial Day.”

•Grill Fire Facts

In 2019, there were 81 fire and explosion incidents reported to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS) involving open fired grills. These incidents caused five civilian injuries, one fire service injury and an estimated dollar loss of $1.4 million. Of the 81 grill fires, 71, or 88 percent, were gas grills. Solid fuels such as charcoal briquettes were involved in eight, or 10 percent of these fires.

•Check for Leaks

“Check to make sure all the connections are tight and secure before firing up the gas grill for the first time this season,” said Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “Using a brush, apply a soapy solution made of one part dish liquid and one part water to the tank connection. If the solution bubbles, you have a leak that needs repair,” said Ostroskey. He recommended checking for and replacing any cracked hoses.

•Rules for Grills on Porches, Decks and Patios

“Grills can only be used on first floor porches, decks, or patios if there is an outdoor stairway to the ground, or the porch is at ground level. Grills are prohibited on any porch, balcony or deck that has a roof, or overhang,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. For more information, contact your local fire prevention office.

•Safety First

Over the past five years (2015-2019), there were 449 fires involving grills, hibachis and barbeques. These fires caused 20 civilian injuries, five firefighter injuries and $3.8 million in estimated property damages. 

*Read and follow the owner’s manual for any cooking appliance.

*Always grill outdoors.

*Keep children and pets three feet away from the grill area. Create a circle of safety.

*Place grills 10-feet away from the house. Make sure they are not under eaves, overhanging branches or against the side of the building. Keep them away from deck railings.

*Grills can be used on open (no roof) first floor porches, decks or patios if there is an exterior stairway to the ground, or it is at ground level.

*Grills should never be used indoors or on fire escapes.

*Never leave a grill burning unattended.

*Keep the grill clean by removing grease or fat build-up from the grills and trays below the grill.

*If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.

*If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait 15 minutes before relighting.

*Never use gasoline on any grill!

•Shut Off the Gas at the Tank

After each use, and before disconnecting the propane tank, be sure to shut off the gas at the tank.

•Charcoal Grill Safety

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey also said, “Practice safety around charcoal grills.” Once the coals have been lit, never add lighter fluid to the fire – flames may travel up the stream of lighter fluid resulting in serious burns. Charcoal briquettes give off carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. “Make sure to always use charcoal grills outside in a well-ventilated are.” He added, “Let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container.” Charcoal grills cannot be used on decks, balconies, or fire escape stairways.

•Smoking Fire Safety

There have been so many fires this spring from improperly discarded smoking materials on porches and in backyards. These fires can smolder undetected for a long time and when they erupt into flames, travel fast. If you smoke, put it out all the way, every time. Extinguish smoking materials in a can with sand or water, not in the mulch, leaves grass, a potted plant or other container that can catch fire. Don’t snub them out on the porch railing or stairs.

•Gasoline and Lawn Mowers

Ostroskey said, “If your older children are learning to mow the lawn, be sure to teach them about gasoline safety at the same time.” Gasoline vapors are highly flammable. They stay on your clothing and can ignite if you light a match.

*Store gasoline only in approved containers, outside.

*Keep gasoline away from all heat sources, such as smoking materials, pilot lights, campfires, and grills.

*Fill a cooled lawn mower. Never refill while it is hot.

*Keep hands and feet away from a mower while it’s running.

*Never use gasoline to start a campfire.

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