Stay safe during spring cleanup and when grilling outdoors

  • Published
  • By Richard S. Campos
  • JBSA-Fire Emergency Services

With plants budding and trees in full bloom, it means spring has finally arrived. While your thoughts may turn to that dreaded ritual of spring cleaning, it comes a timely reminder to keep your home safe from the threat of fire.

In an effort to make this spring cleanup a fire-safe one, Joint Base San Antonio Fire Emergency Services provides the following safety tips:

·         Clean your garage of stored newspapers or other rubbish that can fuel a fire.

·         Test your smoke alarms monthly.

·         To help prevent nuisance alarms, gently vacuum your smoke alarm every six months or as needed.

·         Change batteries in smoke alarms, flashlights and carbon monoxide detectors.

·         Never borrow smoke alarm batteries to use for toys or other equipment.

·         Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years or as recommended by the manufacturer.

·         Keep outdoor debris or dead vegetation away from the house.

·         Properly dispose of oily or greasy rags. If these items must be stored, they should be kept in labeled and sealed metal containers.

·         If you store gasoline, keep it outside your home in a shed or detached garage. Keep only small quantities in tightly sealed containers. Use gasoline only as a motor fuel, never as a cleaning agent or charcoal accelerant.

·         Use outdoor barbecue grills with caution. Place in a safe area away from building, windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning units or places with high/dead vegetation.

·         Never use gasoline to start the fire, and don't add charcoal lighter fluid once the fire has started.

·         Use barbecue grills outside only - not under overhangs or balconies, and away from combustibles.

·         Check your propane barbecue grill hose for leaks and cracks; never store propane indoors.

Speaking of barbecuing, neighborhood backyards are getting filled with aroma of food cooking on the grill.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, three out five households owns a gas grill, which translates to a lot of tasty meals. But it also means there’s an increased risk of home fires.

·         Numerous home fires are caused by grilling and close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns this accounts for a yearly average of 8,900.

·         In recent years, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills.

·         July is the peak month for grill fires at 17 percent, including both structure, outdoor or unclassified fires, followed by May, June and August.

·         A failure to clean the grill was the leading factor contributing to the fire in 19 percent of all grill structure fires. In 17 percent of the fires, something that could catch fire was too close to the grill.

·         Leaks or breaks were the factor in 11 percent of grill structure fires and 23 percent of outside and unclassified grill fires.

·         Gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires overall than their charcoal counterparts.

Safety tips for grilling include:

·         Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.

·         The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

·         Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.

·         Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.

·         Never leave your grill unattended.

·         Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.

As for charcoal grills, there are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.

If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.

There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.

When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

When using a propane grill, check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles.

If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.

If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least five minutes before re-lighting it.

For more information about grilling safety, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at or contact JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921, or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.