Seven out of every 10 adults in the U.S. have a grill or smoker, which translates to a lot of tasty meals but also means there’s an increased risk of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA.

chicken legs and wings on a grill
Grilling is a national pastime on Memorial Day. (Stock photo)

“The Memorial Day weekend is often considered the unofficial beginning of grilling season, and while grilling is an enjoyable seasonal outdoor activity, people need to be aware of its potential dangers,” said Joyce Cavanagh, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist in family and community health, Bryan-College Station.

Cavanagh said the most typical type of injury is a contact-type burn, which occurs when someone bumps into or touches a hot grill or coal.

“A grilling accident can also cause external fires that can injure people and cause serious property damage,” she said.

Fire facts and grilling tips

NFPA reports the months of May, June, July and August are the most active for grill fires, with July being at the top of the list. In 2014-2018, fire departments went to an annual average of 8,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including 3,900 structure fires and 4,900 outside or unclassified fires. Additionally, NFPA data shows from 2013-2017, an average of 19,000 people per year went to emergency rooms due to injuries sustained from grills.

Some outdoor grilling fire safety measures suggested by AgriLife Extension and NFPA are:

– Setting up the grill on a concrete surface or the ground where grass and vegetation in the area are trimmed and where no dry leaves, brush, mulch piles or other combustibles are nearby.
– Placing the grill in an open area away from deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches or other potentially combustible surfaces.
– Checking gas grills for leaks and making sure hose connections are tight.
– Setting the grill at least 10 feet away from any building, and do not grill in a garage or under a carport or other surface that might catch fire.
– Keeping young children and pets at least 3 feet from the grill.
– Removing any grease or fat buildup from the grill and/or in the trays below the grill.
– Keeping charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
– Never leaving the grill unattended once the fire has been lit.
– Never moving a hot grill.
– Keeping a multi-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach.
– Using flame-retardant mitts and grilling tools with long handles instead of household forks or short-handled tongs.
– Letting coals completely cool before disposing of them, and using a metal container for disposal.

“Using some vigilance and precaution, you can help ensure you and your family will have safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend,” Cavanagh said.

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