Summertime Fire Safety Tips

It's possible to enjoy a sizzling-hot summer without getting burned! When the time comes to haul out the gas grill, camping equipment, and lawn mower, give some thought to this advice from the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). It could keep you a lot safer this summer:

Grilling
Keep barbecue grills far away from anything that can burn -- your home, cars, dry vegetation, etc. Stay with the grill when lighted, and keep children and pets well away from the area. When barbecuing, protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and an oven mitt that fits high up over your forearm. If you get burned, run cool water over the burn for 10 to 15 minutes. (Tip: Don't use butter or a salve on burns because these seal in heat and can damage the tissue further.) If you receive a serious burn, with charred skin, for example, seek medical attention promptly. Barbecue grills must never be used inside the home because, in addition to the fire hazard of indoor grilling, the grill can easily cause carbon monoxide poisoning. If lightning appears while you're grilling, seek shelter and wait for the storm to pass.

Charcoal Grills
For charcoal grills, only use starter fluids (never use gasoline) designed for barbecue grills. Use a limited amount of starter fluid before lighting the fire. If the fire is too slow, rekindle with dry kindling and add more charcoal if necessary. Don't add liquid fuel to re-ignite or build up a fire, as flash fires can result. Soak the coals with water before you discard them and leave the grill away from the house until completely cool.

Gas Grills
For gas grills, always store the gas cylinder outside - away from structures - and turn off the valves when not in use. Check frequently for any leaks in connections by using a soap-and-water mix that will show bubbles if gas escapes. When purchasing a gas grill, select one that bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow manufacturer's instructions and if needed, have it repaired by a trained professional.

Fireworks
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend an outdoor public display put on by professionals. Pyrotechnic devices (better known as fireworks) are designed to burn and explode, and are a leading cause of injuries in the U.S. Every year, fireworks used by amateurs cause thousands of injuries serious enough to require emergency room treatment. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 are at greatest risk of injury from fireworks. In 1995, more than 11,000 people suffered severe fireworks injuries in the United States, including burns, lacerations, amputations, and blindness. NFPA recommends that all fireworks - including devices considered "legal" - be used only by trained professional pyrotechnicians. Even sparklers, often mistaken as safe, burn as hot as 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave any area where amateurs (adults included) are using these devices, and do not pick up or touch found fireworks.

Gasoline Safety
Store gasoline outside the home, preferably in a locked, detached shed, and store just enough to power your gasoline-fueled equipment. Keep gasoline up high, inside a clearly marked container that's labeled and approved for gasoline storage. Make sure gasoline and all flammable liquids are well away from any heat source or flame.

Use gasoline as a motor fuel only - never as a stain remover or for other purposes. To transport gasoline in an automobile to and from the filling station, place a sealed, approved container in the trunk with the trunk lid propped open and drive directly to the fueling site. Take a direct route back home and never store gasoline in a vehicle.

Extinguish smoking materials before fueling, and take the equipment outside well away from combustibles. Wipe up any spills immediately and move the equipment at least 10 feet away from the fueling area to start the engine. Before re-fueling, turn off the equipment and let it cool completely.

Boating
Before fueling your boat, make sure to extinguish smoking materials and shut down all motors, fans and heating devices. Be sure the fueling nozzle is grounded to the fuel intake and don't fill to capacity -- leave room for expansion. Wipe up fuel spills immediately and check the bilge for fuel leakage and odors. After fueling and before starting the motor, ventilate with the blower for at least four minutes.

On board your covered boat, consider installing a smoke detector and test the battery before using the boat each time, replacing the battery with a fresh one at least once a year. Only use portable stoves and heaters specifically designed for marine use.

For information on marine fire extinguishers and other information on boating safety, contact the U.S. Coast Guard office near you.

Enjoying Your Pool
Liquid and solid chlorine-based oxidizers are commonly sold for home pool care as hydrogen chloride products. These chemicals can spontaneously combust if contaminated by organic materials (such as body fluids, acid rain, etc.) or hydrocarbon liquids such as fuel or motor oil. This type of fire will result in toxic fumes that can be extremely dangerous and require resident evacuation. Store and use pool chemicals according to the manufacturer's recommendations, and always store them outside the home, away from any heat source or flame. Keep the containers in a dry place, well away from other items. If the container is punctured or otherwise damaged, properly dispose of the chemicals.

For more information on proper storage of other hazardous chemicals or flammable and combustible products, contact your local pool supplier or fire department.

Camping
Pitch your tent (flame retardant is best) well away from your campfire. Only use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns inside the tent or any other closed space, as opposed to liquid-fueled heaters or lanterns. In addition to the fire hazard posed by liquid-fueled devices, carbon monoxide poisoning can easily result in unvented spaces.

Build your campfire downwind, away from your tent, clearing away all dry vegetation and digging a pit surrounded by rocks. Look for signs that warn of potential fire hazards in national forests and campgrounds, and always obey park service regulations. Pour water over or cover the fire with dirt before going to sleep or leaving the campsite. Store liquid fire starter - never use gasoline - away from your tent and campfire and use only dry kindling to freshen a campfire - not liquid fuel.

By following these quick and simple steps, we can all keep summer activities fun and fire-safe.

For further information on summer fire safety or other fire safety topics, please contact your local fire department or the National Fire Protection Association.