Getting grilled on fire safety

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. ••

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