You shouldn’t be fire-conscious only when you are at home or at work. Carelessness outdoors can have devastating results. Camping, barbecues, caravanning and other outdoor activities pose fire hazards that can destroy delicate ecosystems and large areas of countryside. Dry vegetation in the summer add to the danger but care should be taken throughout the year.
The focus of this article is going to be on some common outdoor fire hazards like BBQ and wildfires and some ways to prevent and control them.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that an average of 8,800 home fires is caused by grills and barbecues. One out of every seven residential fires involves grill as the ignition source.
Investigations by experts show that these incidents may have been caused by the following;
- Propane cylinders
- User error
- Defective grilling design
- Improper assembly
- Failed grill components
The result of these mishaps can be disastrous. Aside from the property damage associated with the nearly 10,000 annual reported residential fires, there are multiple deaths and thousands of emergency room visits each year.
July is the main month for grill and BBQ related fires. In the summer the risk of grill-related fires is very high.
Below are some grill safety tips;
- Don’t leave a lit grill unattended
- Only allow responsible adults to monitor the barbecue
- Don’t allow kids and pet close to the BBQ. Establish a 3-meter safety zone around it.
- Never wear loose or baggy clothing that may easily come in contact with the grill. Use flame-resistant oven mitts and long-handled grilling tools.
- Have a garden hose connected to a fast flowing water supply or alternatively a fire extinguisher in case of a fire.
- BBQ grills are designed for outdoor use. Never grill in your garage, home, tent, and trailer. Carbon monoxide can easily build up.
- Keep in mind that barbecues can be dangerous when operated without care or while under the influence of medication and alcohol.
- After barbecuing, first turn off the valve on the propane cylinder. This way, any gas in the hose will be burned off. Once the cylinder is shut off and the gas in the hose has been burned off, turn off the controls on the BBQ. Allow it to cool down before placing a protective cover on it.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instruction to the letter when lighting your BBQ. Make sure the barbecue lid is open before lighting.
- Never move a lit or a hot grill.
- Keep BBQ lighters far from the reach of children.
- Don’t use paraffin to revive or ignite your barbecue. Only use recommended starter fuel and lighters on cold coals.
BBQ safe placement
- Find out the regulations governing the use of barbecues in your area.
- Only barbecue in well-ventilated areas far away from open doors and windows.
- To reduce the odds of a fire spreading beyond the BBQ, position it 3 to 10 meters away from your fence, trees, open windows, garages, and home.
- Set up your barbecue on a non-combustible flat surface like patio stones and concrete.
BBQ maintenance and cleaning
- Inspect the propane gas cylinder for cuts, dents, gouges and rusting. Replace the propane cylinder if need be.
- Keep the barbecue grill clean of fat build-up, grease and food remains that can start a fire. Empty the grease trap chamber on a regular basis.
- Use warm sudsy water to wash food build up and grease off bricks and lava rocks in the grill.
- Use wire brushes to remove spider webs, dust, rust, and dirt and food particles.
- Check hoses for cuts, cracks and replace if necessary.
- Carefully check hoses connections for leaks by applying a 50% water and liquid soap solution on the valves and hose connection. Bubbles depict a leak. If you happen to encounter a leak, quickly shut off the propane cylinder and tighten the hose connections and carefully inspect it again for leaks.
- Make sure coals are completely out before discarding them: Use long-handled tongs to carefully remove the coals and place them in a container filled with water.
- Keep in mind that charcoal produces carbon monoxide gas when burned; never barbecue in an enclosed place.
- Always barbecue in a well ventilated and open area, far away from open doors and windows.
- Closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.
- Store extra charcoal in a fire resistant container with a tight-fitting cover to keep it dry.
- Don’t use gasoline to aid the ignition of charcoal. Only use recommended lightening fluids. Never put the lighting fluid on an open flame. After applying the lightening fluid on the charcoal, allow a couple of minutes to pass before lighting.
Flash backfires associated with grilling
A flash fire occurs when you turn on your BBQ grill; light it up and a hot ball of flame puffs up to the front of the grill. Thankfully flashback fires are avoidable and easy to fix. Below are some causes of things that cause it.
Causes of flash fires
- Blockage in burner interior.
- When the burner venturi is not properly sealed over the gas jet.
- When there is a blockage at the valve gas jet.
Common blockages causing a flashback fire
Small insects like spiders are drawn to the smell of propane. As such, they build nests, lay eggs, and spin webs in the venture tube situated in the interior of the BBQ. The accumulation of the remains of these organisms ultimately leads to an obstruction in the free flow of gas to the burner.
How to prevent flash backfires
- Clean your grill twice or thrice a year
- Remove grease and food remains.
- Keeping your grill in a good condition will not only help you avoid flashback but will also help your grill to last for a longer period of time.
Propane cylinder safety
- Never paint your propane gas cylinder with a dark paint. Normally, propane cylinders are painted with reflective colors to reduce heat absorption, which slowly increases the pressure within the tank.
- If your propane cylinder catches a fire, clear people from the area and dial 911.
- Remove the tank from your car as soon as you get home- heat build-ups in your car may cause an explosion. Read prevention if car on fire.
- Call the authorities if you discover a propane leak; quickly remove any heat source in the area.
- Don’t store propane tanks close to a source or inside your home
- Store propane tanks in an upright position or vertical position so that the safety release valve can function properly.
- Keep in mind that an empty propane tank is just as dangerous as a full propane gas tank. The same safety precautions should be followed.
- Don’t attempt to cut open a propane gas cylinder. It could lead to a flash fire or an explosion.
- Do away with old and rusty cylinders at the chemical waste depot in your area.
- Carefully inspect your propane gas cylinders for cuts, dents, rusting and replace if need be.
- Ensure that the valve of a propane tank is properly locked before transporting it. Don’t smoke while transporting it.
- As you probably know, propane is heavier than air and tends to flow towards low lying areas. A special chemical is usually added to the gas to make it smell like rotten eggs. If you smell an odor or you suspect a leak, quickly shut off the cylinder. Don’t try to light the grill until you are sure that it is no longer leaking.
- Before 1994, propane cylinder valves had a counter clockwise thread (left- hand). Today, propane cylinders valve now have a clockwise thread.
Gasoline storage fire hazard
Gasoline plays an important role in our daily lives. We use it to fuel our trucks and cars, as well as our boats, land mowers, weed trimmers, some off-road vehicles, and generators. However, gasoline is a flammable liquid that can be very dangerous if not properly stored or handled. The following tips will help protect you and your loved ones.
- Never leave a fuel nozzle unattended.
- Don’t operate any electronic device when refueling your can. This includes- laptops, electronic games, cell phones, and PDAs.
- Do not overfill your tank, try to avoid a spill. Don’t forget to leave room in your tank for expansion.
- Quickly report spills to gasoline station attendants.
- Don’t get back to your car or truck while refueling- spark electricity could easily generate a small spark especially during the winter months.
- If there happen to be a fire at the pump, do not try to quickly remove the nozzle from your car. Leave the area quickly and notify the station attendants.
Gasoline safety guidelines
- Never keep gasoline in open areas where children can easily reach.
- Don’t use gasoline as a pesticide or weed killer.
- Do not use gasoline in place of charcoal lighting fluids.
- Don’t refuel weed trimmers, land mowers or any other piece of equipment while it is hot.
- Never use gasoline as a degreaser or cleaning agent.
- Don’t siphon gasoline by mouth. if swallowed, don’t induce vomiting- seek the attention of a doctor or a medical personnel.
- Never discard gasoline into a street drain, sewer, on the ground or any waterway. Gasoline should be deposited at a chemical waste site.
Recreational vehicle fire safety guidelines
Whether you are camping, relaxing or partying, it is important that you take fire safety seriously. Every member of your party should know what to do in the event of an emergency. If you are among the millions of RV enthusiasts who love exploring this beautiful country of ours, ensure friends and families safety while traveling in your Recreational Vehicle by closely following these safety tips.
RV Fire safety tips
- The first and likely the most important rule of RV firefighting is to save lives first and material goods or properties second.
- Get yourself and your loved ones to safety before attempting to put out or extinguish a fire.
- Only use firefighting equipment if you have been trained to use them.
- Point it out clearly to everyone aboard that material object can easily be replaced, but people can’t.
- Don’t enter or allow anyone to enter a burning RV to retrieve anything, irrespective of how precious it is.
- Install at least one smoke alarm very close to your sleeping area in your RV – 12 v smoke alarms are designed especially for RV.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your RV.
Wildfires are rapidly spreading raging flames enhanced. When enhanced with wind action and firebrands, it can wipe a large forest or land within minutes. Wide fires are among the deadliest forces of nature that can cause large-scale damage to the environment and humans alike.
A report from the United States Fire Service shows that more than 700 wildfires occur annually, destroying more than 27,000 structures and burning downs 7 million acres of land.
Local and central organization work hand in hand to control the thousands of fires that occur each year. The U.S spends more than 5 billion dollars to fight fires annually. The money is used to fund the firefighting forces including the deployment of special planes that drop water on fires and sometimes drop phosphate fertilizer to slow and keep it from spreading.
Wildfires are also known as woodland fire, vegetation fire, bush fires, peat fires, and forest fires depending on the kind of vegetation or plant that is being burnt. They are unpredictable, unplanned and unwanted fires that usually occur in the wild land.
Wildfires can burn at a temperature of more than 2,000 degrees (f). That temperature is two times hotter than the surface of Venus. The flames of wildfire can reach a height of 50 meters. Wildfires can grow so big that they can alter the weather pattern of an area. They also spread rapidly on the ground, moving thrice as fast as an average man can run.
Causes of wildfires
For a fire to start, oxygen, fuel, and heat must be present, these elements forms what is called the fire triangle. Fire will spread in the direction where there are plenty of any of these elements. So, the best way to put out or control a raging flame is to limit one or more of these elements. The following are major causes of wildfires.
It is difficult to imagine a camping trip without ghost stories around a campfire and toasted marshmallows. Without proper safety, your campfire could dramatically turn your trip into a devastating wildfire disaster.
Sometimes, it isn’t safe to set up a campfire. If the surroundings are dry and fire danger is high as well, campfire may be banned. Please respect these bans- they are for your own good and safety. Before setting up a campfire, check the fire department website in your town or city to see if there is a restriction on it.
Choosing a safe location
Most campgrounds have a special fire ring that prevents campfires from spreading. The fire rings are likely going to be built in a safe location. However, site change regularly. There may now be a bush close by or dead branch hanging over the fire ring.
Always use an established fire ring unless it is in a dangerous spot. Make sure that the fire ring is at least 15-feet from combustible materials like- logs, trees, overhanging branches, bush, and dry grass.
If your campsite doesn’t have a fire ring or the ring isn’t safe, you will have to create a new one. Find a good spot that is free from combustible material and set it up there.
Resist the urge to build a bonfire
Since a bonfire is large than a small campfire, it is likely going to emit more sparks that can drift farther.
How do you keep the flames alive?
Only use firewood to keep your campfire alive: Avoid burning branches and plant remains that give off a lot of smoke and sparks.
Extinguish your fire: Make sure you have a shovel and a bucket of water and prepare a fire extinguisher close by.
The right way to light a campfire: Use either a match or a lighter. Don’t use chemicals that accelerate burning or a lighter fluid and make sure used matches stick are cool to touch before throwing them away.
Don’t leave your campfire unattended for long periods.
Put out your campfire
Extinguish your campfire before leaving your campsite: Soak the fire with water. Hot embers can stay active for hours, so make sure the fire is thoroughly doused with water.
The explosive nature of fireworks can start a wildfire. A single spark can start a devastating wildfire that will ravage hundreds of acres of land. Due to the slow-burning rate of fireworks, their pieces may land on unintended places and start a wildfire.
The use of firearms for target practice and hunting is an acceptable practice in many states in the US. In recent years, there have been several cases of wildfires started by careless shooting.
Steps to take before a wildfire
- Adhere closely to the fire codes in your state.
- Make carefully planned evacuation plans with friends and family members.
- Store important documents in fireproof boxes and containers.
- Clean your chimneys a least two times a year.
- Use fire-resistant materials when renovating and building your home.
- Keep rain gutter clean and clear of debris at all times.
- Keep your roof clear of leaves and debris.
- Prune lower branches 10 – 12 ft from the ground.
- Store combustible liquids in the right containers.
- Stack fire woods far away from your home.
Steps to take during a wildfire
- Remove combustible materials from your home.
- Turn off air circulation systems.
- Secure your pets.
- Switch on the light in each room.
- Turn on a radio or TV to get the important emergency information.
- Fill buckets with water.
- Leave the key in the ignition in case you need to leave quickly.
Steps to take after a wildfire
- Call 911 if you perceive any danger.
- Check with the authorities before returning home.
Since people cause most outdoor fires, we all have to take active steps to prevent them. We have to be careful when barbecuing, camping, and using gasoline and propane. Keep it in mind that your actions can influence others to be more conscious and alert to outdoor fire hazards. A little extra care on your part that is likely going to take a couple of minutes could prevent a wildfire.
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