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Originally published June 27, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Page modified July 5, 2014 at 9:31 AM

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Follow rules for safe grilling at summer barbecues | HomeWork

Here are some safety tips to keep the summer grilling season safe and fun.


Q: What grilling safety tips do you recommend?

A: There are few things cherished more in the Northwest than finally being able to get outside and enjoy the summer season with a barbecue. But combining explosive fuels with food, hot metals and large groups of people can be a recipe for disaster if you ignore important safety rules.

Fire is the most destructive force in the universe, and you are inviting it into your backyard for a little cookout. Between 2007 and 2011, 27 percent of the home-structure fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace or patio; 29 percent started on an exterior balcony or open porch; and 6 percent started in the kitchen.

Before you fire up the grill, have a fire extinguisher at the ready and be sure you know how to cut the fuel supply. You should also have the fire department’s phone number handy, just in case.

Never operate a grill without first reading the manual. Grills, whether gas or charcoal, and smokers all have very specific ranges of operation, and it is critical to follow all of the safety restrictions. If you can’t find your manual, check the manufacturer’s website.

Location matters when it comes to cooking with outdoor grills and smokers. Sadly, every year hundreds of people cause fires that damage their houses, garages and patios because they didn’t put their grill or smoker in the correct location. The manual should specify your unit’s minimum distance from your home.

Grills should also be placed well away from deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

If you use a starter fluid, use only a charcoal starter and never add it or any other flammable liquid to a fire that has already been started.

If you have a propane grill, you should check the gas-tank hose for leaks each year before using it for the first time. Apply a light soap-and-water solution to the hose; a propane leak will release bubbles.

If the test reveals a leak or you smell gas and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops when turned off, have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, do not attempt to move the grill. Move away from the grill and call the fire department immediately.

Keep your grill clean so that you don’t have grease buildup, which can cause dangerous flare-ups while the grill is in operation. Never leave your grill unattended while cooking.

Taking the proper precautions will help ensure that all of your summer gatherings are as safe as they are fun.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to

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