Holiday Cooking Outdoors: Special Equipment Can Cause Big Fires
By Firefighter Mark Robertson Sr.
November 15, 2019

In the last several years people have taken to cooking meals outdoors using specialized equipment. The increased use of this special equipment has led to more outdoor fires. These fires can have the potential to not only damage the equipment, but to damage your deck, shed, or even your home. These tips from the United States Fire Administration and Underwriters Laboratories can help to prevent outdoor cooking fires.

Use Barbecue Grills Safely

* Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

* Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.

* Keep children and pets away from the grill area by declaring a 3-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.

* Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when cooking food.

* Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

* Use only outdoors! If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, barbecue grills pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to carbon monoxide.

Charcoal Grills

* Purchase the proper starter fluid and store out of reach of children and away from heat sources.

* Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.

Propane Grills

* Check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will reveal escaping propane quickly by releasing bubbles.

* If you determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame:

o Turn off the propane tank and grill.
o If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
o 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 attempt to move the grill.

* All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.

* Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.

* Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

Turkey Fryer Safety

*Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other flammable materials.

*Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.

*Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.

*Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.

*Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.

*To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.

*Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.

*Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.

*The National Turkey Federation (NTF) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.

*Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.