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August 23rd, 2019

grill fireUnattended grills can easily lead to fires. With outdoor activities picking up, the risk of fires also increases. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


With summer and warmer weather upon the area, people will soon be spending more time outdoors with activities like cookouts and campouts. With that in mind, there are some fire safety precautions people must take as they go about those activities. 

“When it comes to barbecue grills, there are a few guidelines everyone should follow so they stay safe. Sometimes people try to get creative with the way they light the grill if they don't have lighter fluid around – I've actually heard of people using gasoline to light the charcoal, but that's not a good idea at all, lighter fluid is the only thing you should use. And don't overdo it with the lighter fluid because that can cause a whole other host of problems on its own,” Liberal Fire Department Marshal Cody Regier said. “Also be sure there's not a lot of grease build-up on the grill and clean it regularly – grease burns really badly and we don't want any grease fires to get started. For people with propane grills, never turn the propane on when the lid's closed because that propane will build up and when it ignites, that causes a small explosion. Also with propane grills, make sure to check the hoses and be sure they're not cracked or damaged or anything like that because that can also cause a lot of problems. Also, don't try to cook indoors – it's not so much we get people who try to cook in their living room or something like that, but if it gets rainy they'll try to bring the grill into the garage or someplace like that, but that's not a great idea either since the smoke will build up and garages typically have a lot of items that can catch fire, so it's just overall not a good idea. Either that or they'll try to move the grill to under the awning of the house if it's rainy, but that's not really a great idea either since the house could catch fire. With charcoal grills, it's not uncommon where someone will finish grilling and then throw the coals away too soon and don't let them cool down properly, so we'll get calls for dumpster fires caused by that, so just make sure the coals are fully cooled down before throwing them away. If your grill happens to go out, don't try and reignite it with flammable liquids because if you do that, it might flash up at you and burn you badly. Finally, don't leave the grill unattended – if you've got the grill going, stay with it and keep an eye on it.”

And grills are not the only items people need to take safety precautions with. 

“With fire pits, which are small fire areas in someone's backyard, make sure the area around the pit is clean and free of debris like dry leaves or dry pinecones, things like that. Also be sure to use a cover on the pit, the cover prevents the embers from flying up and getting away and out of hand,” LFD firefighter Jeremy Paris said. “Keep flammable liquids away from the pit and don't even use them to light the fire itself. Be sure to keep a water source close and available so if something does happen, you'll have a better shot at putting the fire out. Also, don't burn when there are high winds – we actually have a regulation in Liberal that says if the wind's blowing higher than 15 mph, you're not allowed to burn anything within the city limits. Also don't burn when there's cloud cover because the cloud cover doesn't let the smoke dissipate into the atmosphere. And I hate to have to remind people of this, but don't bring portable fire pits indoors.”

“And with campfires, a lot of those same rules apply. I know if people who go out to the park or to the lake will want to get a fire going for the night,” fellow LFD firefighter Joseph Navarro said. “Before setting that though, dig a small pit so you're not burning on the dry grass. You also don't want to start a fire where there are a lot of branches and things like that hanging over it. And I know out at Arkalon Park there are a lot of pre-made fire pits set up for people to use. Also be sure to have a bucket of water and/or a pile of dirt handy so if something does happen you can help put it out. And be sure to not leave the campfire unattended.”

Overall, Regier said, Liberal citizens are pretty mindful when it comes to getting fires together. 

“We might see a slight increase in dumpster fires from charcoal being thrown away too soon, but locally, we don't tend to see much of an overall increase in those calls,” Regier said. “Most of the big forest fires you hear about happen from campfires.”

“I would say most people are mindful of that, especially because of the area we live in,” Navarro said. “Most people here know you don't start a grill or campfire indoors and they also know to let coals cool off after using the grill before throwing everything away.”

“Unfortunately though, we also have people who just don't pay attention,” Paris said. “I remember a story out of Colorado where the biggest wildfire in the state's history was started because a forest ranger was burning a letter from her ex and let the fire get away from her.”

The most important thing, it was agreed, is for people to pay attention. 

“Out at the parks it's not just your area you have to worry about,” Regier said. “A lot of people like to go camping and you can't control how much control they have over their campfires and vice versa, and if something happens, that can be really bad.”

“Conditions change rapidly wherever you are. Winds can be different in different areas and can change on a dime,” Paris said. “The big thing is pay attention. Have fun while you're outside, but pay attention to what you're doing. If you've got a fire going, watch it and make sure you do all you can to keep it under control by having a water source nearby and just employing other common sense measures.”

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