Summer’s here, so it’s time for barbecues, picnics, and campfires. Cooking outdoors is a lot of fun, but it does come with its share of hazards that you’ll need to take into consideration if you want everything to turn out safe and sound. In that spirit, here are a few tips from experts for keeping your cookouts fun instead of frantic.
To begin, here’s what Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis recently told the PekinDaily Times for an article on the topic: “Camping and other outdoor activities that involve building a fire should be enjoyable for the entire family. It’s important for campers to be aware of rules and regulations governing open fires. Everyone should use common sense and keep fire safety in mind when cooking or engaging in other activities that involve fire.” The article goes on to note that about 30 “uncontrolled campsite fires” occur each year in Illinois, many of which could have been easily preventable.
Some of those common-sense fire safety and grilling practices include:
- Though it should go without saying, the most important rule of thumb when it comes to outdoor cooking is to never leave a grill unattended.
- Always follow campground fire-safety rules. If a fire ring is not available, be sure to select a spot on which to build a fire that is a safe distance (at least 15 feet) away and downwind from dry grass, trees, and tents.
- Do not use gasoline or other petroleum-based substances (or gel fuel pots), as they are explosive.
- Always maintain the size of a fire at a manageable level, one at which the flames can be doused at a moment’s notice.
- Always have a pail of sand or water near a fire, along with an extinguisher and a shovel in case they are needed to quickly control it.
- Keep all flammable substances far away from a fire and stored in such a way that a haphazard spark cannot reach them.
- Keep children (and pets) at least 3 feet away from grills or campfires. And keep matches and lighters away from children at all times.
- Always make sure that a fire is completely doused and inert before leaving a campsite or retiring for the evening.
In addition, NFPA has created a list of grilling safety tips specifically for backyard barbeques. The page includes information related to both charcoal and propane grills, so that each outdoor cooking enthusiast can easily find the correct information. Also on the NFPA website is a video interview with ESPN Sports Center’s Hannah Storm detailing her own terrifying grill accident. Her experience was sparked by a familiar problem for many people; she was cooking on a propane grill when the flame was blown out by a gust of wind. When she re-started the grill, however, the propane that had been pooling around the area exploded into a ball of flame. Fortunately, she has recovered well from the accident, but it serves as a very serious reminder of the dangers of grilling.
With this information in mind, we encourage our readers to carefully follow the instructions for any outdoor cooking equipment used this summer, and re-check that all safety measures are in place, even if you’ve already been grilling during these past few months. You can never be too safe.