Grab your grilling apron, the season is upon us yet again. Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Lloyd Ayers was at Jack’s Firehouse recently to demonstrate safe grilling tips at the ninth annual Grilling Safely with the Commissioner.
While there was a festive mood to the event, its message was serious. According to Ayers, grilling is the number-one cause of fires that his department sees in July.
Each year the commissioner, in conjunction with Jack’s Firehouse, picks up the tongs and spatula and flips salmon, burgers, asparagus, onions and more on a charcoal grill in Jack’s outdoor seating area while demonstrating proper safety techniques. For the past six years he has been accompanied by Jack’s owner, Mick Houston.
“Make sure you grill fifteen feet away from anything combustible,” said Ayers. “Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. We want people to know this is an adult activity. No children allowed.”
Ayers said that 28 percent of grilling-related fires typically start while people are cooking on charcoal or gas grills positioned on the porch and patio. He also demonstrated the proper way to change a propane tank, and he reiterated that all propane tanks must be equipped with overfill-prevention devices. How often a tank should be changed depends on the amount it gets used. The National Fire Protection Agency instituted the use of OPDs, a valve that restricts gas flow until the tank is connected, in 2002.
Last May, one person was injured and 19 displaced when six units in the Brewerytown Square townhomes, on the 3100 block of Master St., were damaged by fire at about 3 a.m. A patio grill started the blaze.
Ayers warned grillers to be aware of the carbon-monoxide gas created from the fire. The safety program started, according to Ayers, because of the high number of house fires from grilling nationwide.
“This is a great public service to Philly,” said Houston. “It’s good for me too because it lets it be known I’m not just here slingin’ burgers. I’m in the community too, and I care about it.”
In addition to reminding citizens to avoid wearing baggy or loose clothing around the grill, and to cook in an open environment, the fire department also offered these safe-grilling tips:
• Never store a spare LPG (propane) container under or beside the grill.
• Never store an LPG cylinder in your home.
• Barbecue grills are not allowed on apartment building balconies or decks.
• Barbecue grills are allowed on porches and decks of one- and two-family homes.
• Always turn off the valves when not in use.
• When purchasing a grill, select the one that bears the approval mark of an independent testing laboratory.
• Do not transport LPG containers in the trunk of a passenger vehicle.
• To guard against the possibility of damage of explosion, burners tubing and piping should be free from insects, dust and debris. ••