Having been raised along the coast and within walking distance of the beach, my family loved to barbecue as often as possible. We would fill our hibachi with charcoal, pour on a generous amount of lighter fluid, throw a lit match on top, and voila, an impressive fire would kindle the briquettes to a deep red glow. The trouble was, sometimes the fire was not big enough to start the charcoal. I would, as a 7 or 8 year old, squirt lighter fluid on the small fire to speed things along. Looking back I wonder where my parents were, and how I managed to avoid igniting myself as the fluid streamed out of the can! To help in this outdoor season, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has outlined a few “grilling safety tips.”
- Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
- The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
- Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
- Never leave your grill unattended.
- There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
- If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
- Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
- When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
These tips can be viewed in a safety poster the NFPA published.
Photo was taken by Tanjila Ahmed.
Jack C. Putnam grew up in Laguna Beach California. He spent two years teaching and doing humanitarian service in Africa as a young adult. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Development/Family Science, and a master’s degree in School Psychology. Jack is married and has 5 children and 4 grandchildren.