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Safety tips for grilling and campfires


Brainerd Fire Chief

Every year Americans look forward to summer vacations, family reunions, picnics and the Fourth of July.

Summertime, however, also brings fires and injuries due to outdoor cooking and recreational fires. Annually, there are almost 3,800 Americans injured by gas or charcoal grills fires.

Summertime should be a time of fun and making happy memories. Knowing a few safety tips and following safety instructions will help everyone have a safe summer. Avoid using soft wood, such as pine or cedar that will likely pop and throw sparks in a fire pit. Use of seasoned hardwood is suggested. Don’t build a campfire at a site in hazardous, dry conditions or if the campground, area, or event rules prohibit campfires.

An estimated 5,700 grill fires occur on residential properties each year in the United States. Almost half (49 percent) of grill fires on residential properties occur from 5 to 8 p.m. Over half (57 percent) of grill fires on residential properties occur in the four months of May, June, July and August. Thirty two percent of grill fires on residential properties start on patios, terraces, screened-in- porches or courtyards.

Here are a few grill safety tips:

• Propane and charcoal barbecue grills must be used outdoors only. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.

• Position the grill well away from siding, deck railing and out from under leaves and overhanging branches.

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

• Keep children and pets from grill areas; declare a three-foot “safe zone” around the grill.

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

• Periodically remove grease and fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Charcoal grills

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

• Never add charcoal lighter 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 have determined your grill has a gas leak by smelling or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame: Turn off the propane tank and grill; if the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again; and if the leak does not stop, call the local fire department or 911.

• If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department or 911. Do not attempt to move the grill.

Other fire safety tips are to include keeping grills at least 15 feet away from any structure and recreational fires a least 25 feet away from structures. Recreational fires must be in a approved fire ring of 3-feet in diameter. No burning of brush or garbage.

For more information on burning you can go to the City of Brainerd’s webpage at and check all the burning regulations. You can also call our phone number at 828-2312.

In the last year, Brainerd Fire/Rescue has responded to many calls related to campfires, gas grills and illegal burning. The calls have ranged from a small deck fire to a full blown structure fire. We have had no injuries to date from any of these types of calls. If you have any questions regarding any of these issues you can always call the fire station. We are here to serve you in a safe manner 24 hours a day.

As I always say “Be safe out there.”

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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