Outdoor barbecues and camping trips are a great way to build memories that last a lifetime, but parents should take precautions to make sure such family-friendly excursions don’t end in tragedy. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that each year almost 5,000 Americans are injured by outdoor grill fires, while the Dayton Children’s Medical Center estimates that campfires make up almost 75 percent of all children’s camping-related injuries.
Fire prevention experts recommend taking the following steps to keep barbecues and campfires safe.
The National Institute of Health reports that most child-related campfire injuries stem from children walking or falling into the fire. Clear a four-foot area around the campfire site of any loose debris including stones, fallen leaves and branches, and other obstacles, and make sure the site isn’t placed near dry grasses and wood. Circle the campfire with stones or a metal ring to help contain its kindling and ash.
Once the fire is lit, keep it burning slowly, and instruct children how to place – not throw – sticks and twigs into the flames. When roasting marshmallows or other snacks, make sure children’s hands and arms aren’t covered, and that long hair is tied back. Roasters shouldn’t be waved in the fire but kept steady at a safe height above the fire’s base. Keep a bucket of soil nearby at all times for quick dousing.
When extinguishing the fire, never pour water directly on the hot wood or coals; this can release trapped gasses underneath that can explode. Instead, toss water in small amounts around the fire, and smother the flames with dirt as well. Fires buried beneath soil without wetting can sometimes smolder on, presenting a fire hazard.
Barbecue pits and grills should never be used within enclosed areas, as this can cause dangerous buildups of carbon dioxide. Loose clothing should not be worn around the grill surface, and children should be kept several feet away from the grill while it’s in use.
Propane tanks should be securely connected and never overfilled.
Keep matches away from children during the barbecue and out of their reach at all other times. Never add lighter fluid to an already-burning grill fires, as the resulting flashback creates both explosion and fire hazards.
Once the barbecue is over, dispose of hot coals by dousing them with water and stirring them to make sure all embers are extinguished. Never store burnt coals in plastic, paper, or wooden bags or boxes.
Parents can get additional information at the USFA Web site.