By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 31, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Barbeques, fireworks and camping are all big parts of summer in the South, but if people aren't careful, a weekend of fun can turn into a disaster with lasting consequences.
That's why Fort Rucker officials are urging people to take fire safety seriously by taking the proper precautions when taking part in some of their favorite summertime activities, said Jeremy Evett, Fort Rucker fire chief.
When it comes to fire safety, whether it is for camping or cooking, people need to be cognizant of a multitude of factors, said Evett.
"There are several things that come into play in the summer -- both on duty and off duty. A lot of people get active during summer time with vacations and traveling, and one thing people need to look at while vacationing are their camp fires," said the fire chief. "They need to take into consideration the dry conditions and windy conditions when building a fire, and they should make sure they are extinguishing them properly and protecting themselves properly so that they don't have embers that could potentially start a wild fire."
There are campgrounds on Fort Rucker located at Lake Tholocco, and Evett said people need to do their part to keep the installation safe for not only themselves, but for others around them, as well.
"The installation has done what they can to make the campfire pits as safe as they can, but people need to be safe, too," he said.
Additionally, when starting fires, people should not use items like gasoline or kerosene, which can cause flare ups and result in serious injuries.
"No one is immune to that," Evett said, as he recounted a story of one of his own personnel who relearned the lesson the hard way. "(He) was lighting some grass on his property to burn off, using a mixture of gasoline and diesel fuel and was too close when it lit, and it flashed and burned his face and hands. He was taken to a burn unit and has fortunately made an incredible recovery, but he relearned a valuable lesson that day."
Another big summertime activity, especially with Independence Day coming up, is the lighting of fireworks, and although many see fireworks as a fun activity, Evett said people need to remember that they are essential miniature explosives.
Fireworks are not allowed on Fort Rucker, but for those who light fireworks off the installation need to make sure to take the proper precautions when doing so, said the fire chief.
"People need to make sure that they're following all of the manufacturer's safety requirements and recommendations," he said. "They shouldn't be standing too close, and parents need to keep an eye on their children and make sure they are operating them safety. Also, people should make sure to never hold them in their hands when launching them -- just follow the directions."
Evett said that people need to make sure they aren't lighting fireworks in areas where there is a lot of dry grass or brush that could potentially catch fire, and have extinguishing materials on standby.
Summer is also well known as barbecue season, and if people aren't cautious, a fun family outing could turn potentially disastrous.
"When people are barbecuing, issues can arise when they are doing something as simple as firing up the grill," said Evett. "When using a propane grill, people need to be careful when lighting the grill because if the gas builds up then the flames can flash up unexpectedly.
'For those using charcoal grills, many like to use lighter fluid to get the flames going, but sometimes overuse of lighter fluid can cause flames to flash up, as well, so people need to be careful of that," he continued, adding that squirting lighter fluid on open flames should be avoided as the flame has the potential to travel up the stream and ignite the canister.
People should make sure they aren't grilling too close to a residence, and take the proper precautions when disposing of the charcoal after grilling.
Although many of these summertime activities can be relaxing, Evett said that people should never drop their guard when it comes to fire safety.
"One of the biggest culprits when it comes to fire hazards is complacency," said the fire chief. "They think 'I've done it a hundred times and never had an issue,' but you cannot get complacent -- you have to keep an eye on things."
Additionally, with the dry weather that summer often brings, if people are smoking, they should make sure to dispose of cigarettes properly, he added. A lit cigarette tossed into dry brush or even a trash can has the potential to start a fire.