Make sure the grill is ready for holiday cookouts

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s hard to beat the taste of food cooked over a flame, and more Americans are going to be firing up their backyard grills during the Fourth of July weekend than any other time of the year.

The outdoor cooks prefer gas grills over charcoal, and while propane might be more convenient, it also leads to more serious accidents. In the hands of a novice, a grill fueled by propane can explode in your face, or worse, do serious damage to your property.

Gas grills are involved in five times as many home fires as charcoal grills, each year: 7,200 compared to 1,400, according to the latest figures offered by the National Fire Protection Association.

Just as authorities are blaming a gas leak for a dramatic food truck fire in Philadelphia over the weekend that left five people in the hospital, it can do the same for a backyard barbeque.

RELATED | See dramatic video of the explosion in Philadelphia here

“If you have a leaking line, you probably will smell it, you will hear it,” warns Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield about the flexible propane hoses on gas grills.

Whitfield said backyard cooks need to inspect those gas lines “and make sure if you see it is worn, or something like that, then you just want to replace it. Err on the side of caution.”

The best way to inspect your gas line? Grant Szymanek, manager of Ed Young’s Hardware on Main Street in Williamsville, offers a few tips:

“Make sure there is no cracks, any leaks. You will spray that with soapy water and make sure that you are not getting any bubbling coming through there.”

Young’s Hardware sells and services gas and charcoal grills, and Szymanek said one of the first rules for safely firing up the grill is to make sure it is at least 10 feet from your house.

“You want it to be away from anything that may be flammable, including trees in the area, or trellises, a deck. Just keep in mind, whatever your largest fire you could possibly have with the grill is, that everything is away from that area.”

Grant said grease collection trays often catch fire, and most grills actually have two: the small aluminum pan we are familiar with, but there is also a larger one underneath.

To avoid a potentially dangerous grease fire, Szymanek said, “You can get a good putty knife and just scrape it off.”

Safety officials also warn backyard cooks to use newer gas tanks, with a valve that is shaped like a three-pointed star. Szymanek added, “If it’s got anything other than that it is probably out of date, and you should have it updated. You won’t be able to get those filled anymore, but you should not be using those tanks anymore.”

Another important tip: if your electronic igniter wears out, and you can’t get a replacement, Szymanek warns users to avoid short matches to light the grill. His advise for grillers is to use a long candle match, or a candle lighter to get the grill going.

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