July is the peak season for grill fires and related injuries, and now with the increased popularity of outdoor fire pits it is even more important to make fire safety prevention and planning part of your summer routine.
Fire pit injuries can happen in just seconds. Two young girls in New Jersey, ages 5 and 8, were severely burned in separate incidents when they tripped and fell into fire pits — in their own backyards. Saint Barnabus Medical Center which treated one of the girls for 2nd and 3rd degree burns, reported that the number of fire pit related injuries have been on the rise for both children and adults over the past five years.
“It is critical to keep children, and pets, at least 3 feet away from open flames at all times and never leave lit grills or fire pits unsupervised,” said David Kurasz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB). “Some grills can be covered while cooking to reduce the open flame danger, but fire pits are typically in the center of where people are gathering and have no barrier for protection.”
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at least 5,300 injuries related to fire pits or outdoor heaters were treated at emergency rooms in the U.S. in 2017, nearly triple those reported in 2008. More than 19,000 trips to the emergency room were to for the treatment of burns from grills, hibachis or barbecues.
Grills and fire pits are also dangerous because they can spark fires to outside structures. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that backyard barbecues cause 10,200 home fires each year.
“Anytime you have an open flame there is a risk of fire spreading,” said Kurasz. “Fire pits and grills should be placed at least 10 feet away from homes, sheds and other items or ground cover that could be combustible. Also, never station a grill or fire pit under an overhang or near hanging branches.”
The NFPA and other safety organizations recommend similar guidelines for grills and fire pits:
GRILL & FIRE PIT
- Operate grills and fire pits outside
- Place at least 10 feet from home/structures
- Never leave open flames unattended
- Do not let children use, run or play near the grill or fire pit
- Keep children and pets 3 feet from all open flames
- Do not wear flammable clothing
- Do not use flammable liquids to start fires
- Keep a fire extinguisher, garden hose, or bucket filled with water nearby
- Only use charcoal starter fluid – no other flammable liquids
- Clean grill before and after use to avoid flare-ups
- Let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container away from the structures
- Check propane gas tank hoses for leaks – especially when changing the tank
- Gas and charcoal grills can produce dangerous toxins
FIRE PIT ONLY
- Check with your local fire department or municipality to make sure fire pits are allowed in your area. Rules can change on a seasonal basis, as dry or windy conditions can affect safety.
- Do not burn trash, leaves, paper, cardboard, or plywood.
- Avoid using soft wood such as pine or cedar that likely pop and throw sparks, use seasoned hardwood or what is recommended by manufacturer.
- Check manufacturer guidelines for properly extinguishing the fire and be sure to have all necessary tools.
- Before starting the fire, make sure that the lid will still close to extinguish the fire in case of emergency. Do not overload.
- Before you light the fire, check the wind direction.
- Fire pits can remain extremely hot into the next day when all embers are burned and the temperature returns to normal.
“Fire doesn’t take a summer vacation, and the damage that can be caused by grills and fire pits can be devastating to your family, friends and property,” said Kurasz. “By taking a few simple precautions you can prevent injuries and fires and enjoy these summertime activities safely.”