Be Safe Grilling this 4th of July

And just like that, Independence Day is here! For me, celebrating the 4th of July, like most, means fireworks and a barbecue. I personally leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, but grilling is something I can sink my teeth into. As a self-proclaimed backyard barbecue king, this is my time to shine. Family and friends are going to be on hand for a fun filled day of all the best backyard activities and they’re sure to build up quite the appetite. But, did you know that July is the peak month for grill fires? From 2013 to 2017, nearly 76,000 patients visited an emergency room due to injuries involving grilling. Here are a few tips to keep your grilling season safe.

Our first and most important tip: All gas and charcoal grills or smokers must be used outdoors.

Nearly 3 percent of grill fire incidents involving structure damage originated from grills used indoors or in covered and enclosed porches. Whenever cooking with an open flame be sure to keep the flame source at least 10 feet from structures and out from under eaves or overhanging branches. Always keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the grill during cooking and well after to avoid burns or knocked over grills.  Never leave a lit grill unattended.  Standing around the grill with a cold beverage and good company is what makes the experience.

Hank Hill would not approve but cooking with charcoal is my preferred method for backyard grilling. Both lump and traditional charcoal briquettes will give you a much tastier final product over a gas grill, in my opinion. I never use charcoal starter fluid when lighting my coals, though. It can add a chemical taste to the food and no one enjoys that. I prefer to use a charcoal chimney coupled with two fire-starter cubes. Using starter cubes or tumbleweeds over something like newspaper eliminates the risk of lit pieces of paper or embers blowing around and having to clean up messy ash before cooking. When the cooking is done, let the coals completely burn out and be sure there is no residual heat emitting before disposing them into a metal container.

I’m not a complete gas grill hater. I do use one for certain applications or if I’m too impatient to wait for coals to light. But, they too come with their own hazards. Check the gas lines for leaks before lighting your grill if it has been an extended period since your last use. If you run out of gas during your cook, be sure to turn all burners off and close the valve on the tank. Leave the lid open and wait at least 5 minutes before replacing the spent tank and re-lighting the grill. This will help to avoid potential ignition of residual fuel. If you smell fuel while your grill is already lit, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department.

Regular maintenance and cleaning are the first steps to avoiding grill fires. Keeping excess grease away from the flame greatly reduces flair ups and potential for out of control grease fires.  Maintaining the burners and gas lines will help to eliminate possible gas leaks and potential explosions. I hope that these tips help you to an amazing Independence Day barbecue and avoid potential fires. And as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” and who can be mad at practicing and eating barbecue year-round?


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Raymond Killian is a Personal Lines Account Manager at Bouchard Insurance. Raymond is experienced in all lines of personal insurance.