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AgriLife Extension experts offer Labor Day grilling tips

By Paul Schattenberg AgriLife TODAY

With Labor Day weekend a popular time for cookouts and persistent drought conditions continuing throughout most of the state, Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts have been advising additional caution about fire and food safety.

"It's extremely important that people take extra care if planning to grill outdoors, especially in open areas," said Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, AgriLife Extension specialist in family development and resource management in College Station. "Three out of four households have an outdoor grill, and cookouts are a huge Labor Day weekend tradition. We're trying to get people to be more aware and take added precautions when grilling at home or away."

Cavanagh also suggests before making plans for a cookout in a public area that people check to see if a burn ban may be in effect in their area.

"If you plan to do a family cookout at a park or during a camping trip or such, check to see if there's a ban in effect so you don't get there only to find out you aren't allowed to grill," she said. "Plus, there can be some stiff fines for defying a burn ban."

The National Fire Protection Association estimates gas and charcoal grills cause 4,200 outdoor fires and 1,500 structure fires annually in or on residential properties, resulting in yearly property losses of about $30 million.

Some outdoor grilling fire safety tips offered by AgriLife Extension experts, the National Fire Protection Association and others include:

• Setting up the grill on a concrete surface or on ground where grass and vegetation in the area are trimmed and where there are no dry leaves, brush, mulch piles or other combustibles in the vicinity.

• Placing the grill in an open area away from deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches or other potentially combustible surfaces.

• Check for leaks and make sure hose connections are tight if using a gas grill.

• Setting the grill at least 10 feet away from a house or building, and refraining from grilling in a garage or under a carport or other surface that might catch fire.

• Keeping young children and pets at least three feet from the grill.

• Removing any grease or fat buildup from the grill and/or in the trays below the grill.

• Keeping charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.

• Never leaving the grill unattended once the fire has been lit.

• Not attempting to move a hot grill.

• Keeping a multi-purpose fire extinguisher within relatively easy reach.

• Using flame-retardant mitts and grilling tools with long handles instead of household forks or short-handled tongs.

• When finished grilling, allowing the coals completely cool before disposing, and using a metal container for disposal.

• Using extreme caution with a liquid propane grill, and always following manufacturer recommendations for connecting or disconnecting the tank.

More information on outdoor cooking safety is available by contacting a local county AgriLife Extension agent for family and consumer sciences or reading the related US Department of Agriculture fact sheet on safe food handling, available at