- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - Summer is all about cooking outdoors on a grill. Be it brats or burgers, steaks or chicken, cooking in the yard over an open flame adds a special something to summertime eats.

Grilling is simple, but also ripe with dangers to consider before lighting the charcoal or sparking the gas.

Elkhart Fire Department Chief Inspector Tony Balzano said safety should always be the top priority.

Whether cooking over charcoal or gas, Balzano emphasized the importance of staying away from structures that could potentially catch fire - both next to and above the grill.

“We like to say stay at least 50 feet away from anything combustible. Perhaps your house, shed or garage,” he said. “Be careful what’s above you when firing your grill up - trees and wires.”

Grills should also never be left unattended for any long period of time, and grillers should be mindful of weather conditions. High winds will stoke a fire and help it burn hotter and more intensely.

“If it’s a windy day, wind will make fire burn and make the fire rate more intense because it feeds it oxygen,” Balzano said.

Both charcoal and gas heat sources bring their own unique hazards.

Balzano said gas powered grills that utilize liquid propane tanks involve several connections that should be checked regularly for excessive wear. While tanks rarely fail, connections on the flexible hoses from the tanks to the burners can wear out, become enlarged and allow gas to escape.

“On older equipment, the burners will corrode. That’s usually where you have trouble,” he said “The ports where the gas comes out will get too big.”

With charcoal, the right amount of a proper lighter fluid is important, Balzano said. Other starting fluids, like butane lighter fluid or gasoline, are less stable and can create a fire that is much harder to control or predict when igniting.

The International Fire Code, which Indiana has adopted statewide, mandates special consideration for apartment complexes for grilling food. Unless otherwise dictated by a complex’s rules, the fire code says all grilling must take place at a minimum of 10 feet from any building and no form of grilling is allowed on elevated decks or porches.

Smoker units and slow cookers, however, are not covered by that part of the fire code. Balzano said the difference comes from grilling as source of food, which includes slow smokers.

“There’s not really any ordinance about smokers because they are made to do that, and normally they’re not an annoying type of smoke,” he said. “When you start burning leaves and green wood it becomes an annoyance because it’s a thick and intense sort of smoke. The law says if you’re cooking, you can cook, but once you’re done cooking it has to go out.”

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Source: The Elkhart Truth, https://bit.ly/2s3DXvX

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Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

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