Arnold AFB Fire and Emergency Services implores personnel to remain fire safe during outdoor activities

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks
  • AEDC Public Affairs

With winter in the rearview and warmer days ahead, many folks in search of leisure are sure to venture outside over the coming months.

Grilling and camping are two popular outdoor pastimes. While usually brimming with food and fun, both can present their share of dangers.

The Arnold Air Force Base Fire and Emergency Services Fire Prevention Office wants people who partake in these activities to enjoy themselves while keeping safety at the absolute forefront. The office shared tips to help ensure such outings are remembered for good chow and cheer instead of catastrophe.

“As they say, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,’” said Arnold FES Fire Prevention Officer Christian Lyle. “We would definitely like to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Grill Safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association, July is the peak month for grill fires. Roughly half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns.

Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors and placed at least 25 feet away from homes, other buildings and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

When using a charcoal grill, the appropriate fuel must be used. Lyle said gasoline should never be added to a charcoal fire. If using lighter fluid to start a charcoal fire, make certain it is specified for use in charcoal grills. Do not add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids directly to the flame.

The NFPA recommends that grills be kept clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grill and in the trays below the grill.

A grill should not be left unattended.

Children and pets should be kept at least 3 feet away from the grill area.

After they have finished with the charcoal grill, users should make sure the coals have cooled completely before the grill is put up for the evening. The NFPA suggests disposing of the cooled coals in a metal container.

When using a gas grill, always make sure the lid is open before igniting it.

The tank hose on a propane grill should be checked for leaks before it is used for the first time each year. This can be done by applying a light soap and water solution to the entire exterior of the hose. Bubbles will be released if a propane leak is present.

Along with a leak check, it is also suggested that the grill itself be closely examined for any damage and possible obstructions.

“If it’s been sitting there for over a year, it can be rusty or it can get holes in it or it can get clogged up, dirt daubers will get in it or what have you, and cause a big problem,” said Arnold FES Fire Inspector Guy Chastain. “Make sure you do a thorough check of the barbecue grill before you actually light it up for the first time this season.”

According to the NFPA, if your gas grill has a gas leak, detected either by smell or the soap 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, contact the fire department.

If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and contact the fire department. Do not move the grill.

If the grill flame goes out, the NFPA recommends turning the grill and gas off and waiting at least five minutes before re-igniting it.

Lyle said regardless of which type of grill is used, a fire extinguisher should be readily available. He also recommended reviewing and following the manufacturer’s guidance.

“Just be safe,” Lyle said. “We would much rather you take an extra couple of seconds or extra couple of minutes to make sure that everybody is safe than to have an issue.”

Groups on Arnold AFB planning to grill for events such as burger burns and cookouts should contact the Arnold FES Fire Prevention Office to obtain a permit, which is required to use a grill within the Arnold AFB mission area.

Though not required, those residing in the Arnold Village community can request Arnold fire prevention personnel come out and look at a grill to make sure it’s safe to use.

“We’re more than happy to come out and help,” Lyle said.

Campfire Safety

According to the NFPA, campfire accidents send thousands of people to emergency rooms with burn injuries each year.

Like a grill, a campfire or fire pit should be at least 25 feet away from any structure or anything that can burn. Dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs should be cleared away before the fire is started.

Children and pets should be supervised and not be allowed to play around the fire or stand too close to it. Campfires and fire pits should remain attended at all times.

Gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids should never be used on a campfire or in a fire pit.

It is recommended that campfires be kept small, as they will be easier to control. The NFPA also advises against burning on dry, windy days, as it is easier for open burning to spread out of control in these conditions. 

Before setting up a campfire, first check with the local fire department to ensure they are permitted.

With campfires, keep a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby to put out the fire when finished using it. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the site.

Lyle recommends having a fire extinguisher at the ready when setting up a campfire or using a fire pit. Many fire pits have a screen that can be placed over top of them, and Lyle said this screen should be used to keep embers confined.

The NFPA recommends that assistance be provided to children when roasting marshmallows. A roasting marshmallow should not be shaken, as it can become a flaming projectile. Heated metal skewers can also cause burns.

Lyle stressed that safety is imperative using grills or building campfires. He added that, in general, safety should remain as much of a priority outside the gates of Arnold AFB as it is within them.

“Obviously, we would love for everybody to be able to go home to their families and loved ones and then also be able to come back and support the mission, support the warfighter, because, with the nature of the base, we’ve got a lot of very important missions going on,” he said.

For additional information, contact the Arnold FES Fire Prevention Office at 931-454-5569 or 931-454-5306.