Summer is here, and so are outdoor grills and fire pits. Most households in the US own a grill or a fire pit, and most will host grill outs or barbecues over these warm months. It is easy to get relaxed when having fun with friends and family. Taking steps towards practicing backyard fire safety is the best way to keep everyone safe while still having a great time.
Backyard Fire Safety Tips
Practicing fire safety can help keep yourself and your loved ones safe during fun outdoor summer events. It is highly recommended that you call the fire department first before starting to extinguish a fire that is out-of-control.
General Fire Safety Tips
- Make sure that children are supervised at all times, as they may not be fully aware of the dangers of an open fire.
- Call the fire department before you start to extinguish an out-of-control fire.
- Never leave a fire pit or grill unattended once lit.
- Have a fire extinguisher or bucket of water on hand to put out flare-ups and prevent an emergency. Even better, have a hose at the ready if you have one.
- If needed, clear an escape route using a fire extinguisher or hose to ensure that everyone gets out safely.
- Only use seasoned wood and charcoal. Composite woods such as fiberboard or plywood can contain potentially toxic chemicals.
- Stay up to date on burn bans and drought conditions even if you aren’t burning leaves; avoid outdoor burning as necessary.
Fire Pit Safety
- As tempting as it is to create a bonfire, larger fires are harder to control if the wind picks up and things get out of hand. Smaller fires still produce a lot of heat and are easier to handle in case of emergency.
- Clear the area surrounding a fire pit prior to use by sweeping or raking leaves, branches, and other debris that can catch fire.
- Avoid lighting a fire on a windy day, as sparks can travel very easily.
- Extinguish a fire completely after use even if it looks like it has burned out. Do this by spreading the ashes with a shovel and pouring several buckets of water over the ashes. Repeat as needed.
Charcoal and Gas Grill Safety
- When using a charcoal grill, use charcoal lighter fluid and not gasoline to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals.
- Do not reapply charcoal lighter fluid once the grill is lit, as the combination of flames, vapor, and fuel can cause a flare up or an explosion.
- It is recommended to have a fire extinguisher that is rated for multipurpose or kitchen use when grilling.
- Turn off a gas grill before trying to extinguish a flare up.
- Do not move a hot grill.
- Opt for clothes that do not have loose sleeves or tassels if you are the grill master in order to avoid clothing catching fire.
Preventing Backyard Fires
The best way to practice backyard fire safety is to do everything you can to prevent fires from happening in the first place. These tips will help you minimize potential risks.
- Avoid setting up grills and fire pits under low hanging branches. Fires can travel up the tree and across branches to the house.
- Avoid setting up grills and fire pits beneath any awnings, such as a patio or covered deck that can catch fire.
- Keep fire pits and grills 10 feet away from the side of the house and in a clear area. Do not light a grill under a porch or patio.
- Set up your fire pit or grill on a flat surface to prevent accidental tipping.
- Place your grill or fire pit at least 30 feet away from the area where you store flammables such as lawnmower fuel or spare motor oil.
- Keep your grill or fire pit at least 30 feet away from where you store wood; sparks can fly on the wind and catch on very dry wood.
- Obtain any permits needed for backyard burning, and observe burn bans and drought conditions.
It only takes a spark to set a fire, especially in very dry conditions. You may want to consider avoiding outdoor fires and grilling during a drought, especially on windy days.