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Avoid grilling accidents as barbecue season heats up

cookout grill
(© Joshua Resnick –

Memorial Day marked the start of outdoor grilling season for many barbecue enthusiasts. Now that it’s time to fire up the grill, it’s important to do so safely.

Each year, approximately 57,000 grill fires occur on residential property, resulting in 100 injuries, 10 fatalities and $37 million in property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Most grilling accidents are caused by grills that haven’t been properly maintained.

“Always inspect your grill before using it to ensure that it will operate properly, and always practice safe barbecue habits,” said Scott DeNoon, farm product and underwriting manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.

Whether grilling with gas or charcoal, be sure to follow manufacturer instructions on how to properly set up and maintain your grill. Additionally, search the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to check for any safety recalls on your grill.

When using charcoal grills, use starter fluids designed for grills. Never use gasoline, and limit the amount of starter fluid. If a fire needs rekindling, add more charcoal if necessary, as too much liquid fuel can start a flash fire.

For gas grills, regularly check grill hoses for cracks, holes and brittleness. Hoses should be directed away from hot areas or where grease could drip on them. Gas leaks can be checked using a soap and water solution that will bubble at points where gas could escape.

When grilling, operate the grill in a stationary position on a level surface at least 3 feet away from nearby objects including homes, trees or shrubs. Only grill in well-ventilated areas to avoid carbon monoxide exposure.

Protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and oven mitts that reach over your forearm. Never grill near others, and remove children and pets from the grilling area.

Keep a fire extinguisher, hose or bucket of water nearby. Should a fire occur that cannot be controlled by a fire extinguisher, call 911 and treat any injuries immediately with a first-aid kit.