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Fire Chief Nicholes urges caution with BBQs
This fire illustrates why it is against fire code to barbecue on apartment balconies. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Spring has arrived and with nicer weather will be lots more backyard barbecuing. But as Ceres Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes offers safety tips for those who use the old fashioned BBQ kettle with charcoal briquettes or a deluxe propane cooker to exercise better safety measures.

Each year, BBQ grilling causes over 6,000 fires or explosions, in America and more than 2,800 injuries, and about $35 million in property losses. Ceres Fire Department responded to less than 15 barbecue fires per year, including small fires started by sparks and flying embers relating to charcoal BBQs.

"Most of the issues we have had with a gas barbecues is that there is a leak where the regulator connects to the tank," said Chief Nicholes. "The escaping gas then ignites and the BBQ now has a fire under it."

The flame can cause a "flame impingement" on the propane tank, weaken the metal of the tank wall and cause the under pressure gas to rupture the tank in a violent explosion called a BLEVE, or Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion."

The city of Ceres does not permit the use of any barbecues on the balconies of apartment units. Also, for safety reasons, BBQs cannot be used under covered patios, covered walkways or roof overhangs. The fire code calls for barbeques to be located on ground level and be a minimum of 10 feet from buildings, structures, covered walkways or roof overhangs.

To prevent BBQ-related tragedies, Ceres Fire encourages users to read and practice the following guidelines.

General grilling tips
All charcoal and propane BBQ grills are designed for outdoor use only. Indoors or in other enclosed areas, toxic gases emitted from grills can asphyxiate people and pets. Sparks and embers from grilling in enclosed areas can easily ignite furnishings and structures, placing people and pets in further danger.

To avoid these risks:

* Position grill outdoors away from combustible materials such as buildings, vegetation and furniture;
* Make sure grill is on a sturdy base and cannot be easily knocked over;
* Keep grill away from play areas and vehicles;
* Use only flame-resistant outdoor grilling tools;
* Periodically inspect grill to insure it is in proper working order;
* Regularly clean grease buildup anywhere on grill.

Charcoal Grilling Tips
Nicholes recommended using starter fluid specified for safe grilling, and store unused fluid out of reach of children and pets. Never use other flammable or combustible liquids. Never add starter fluid to coals or kindling already ignited.

Segregate and discard charcoal and ashes in metal fireproof containers only, using this method: Before adding hot coals, fill container with ample water to cover charcoal and ashes, then place container on concrete or other non-combustible surface. Slowly add hot charcoals/ashes to water-filled container a little at a time. To safely discard charcoal and ashes and avoid flyaway ashes and messes on collection day: After charcoal and ashes are completely cooled, transfer them to a bag, and then tie bag and place in your trash receptacle.

Gas grilling tips
Before using a gas grill, test all hoses and fittings for escaping propane gas (or employ a qualified technician to do so) following these tips:
* Refer to operations manual for specific instructions;
* Apply liquid soap around fittings and the hose to reveal bubbles and leaks;
* If you smell propane gas or see bubbles, immediately shut-off gas valve at the tank;
* Check tubes where propane gas and sir mix to ensure they are not blocked;
* Do not ignite grill if any leaks or blockages are found;
* Make necessary repairs with approved parts, and then repeat the above steps.

If you cannot stop a gas leak, call 911 - do not move grill before fire personnel arrive.

It's also important not to store propane cylinders indoors.