FORT KNOX, Ky. – With one of the biggest barbecue and fireworks weekends of the year just around the corner, officials are reminding the Fort Knox community to exercise caution when dealing with fire.
According to Fort Knox Safety director Joe Colson, this is the peak time of the season for grill fires. Statistics show hospital emergency rooms treat nearly 20,000 patients every year for grill-related injuries, and Colson said Soldiers and Families need to consider what the potential hazards are.
“There’s nothing wrong with using grills on the installation,” said Colson. “It’s about how you use them and where you use them.”
The Knox Hills resident guide states all outdoor cooking devices must be placed at least ten feet from structures, never under an overhang, and only in the backyard of the home.
Colson said it’s a different story off the installation, because it’s up to the homeowner where they’d like to place their grill. He says the key is to exercise safety.
“You want to make sure you either have a bucket of sand or a fire extinguisher present,” said Colson. “You don’t want to use water because if you have a hot grill and a lot of grease, you’re going to have a really bad outcome.”
While it’s important to know how to mitigate fires when they occur, Colson pointed out one particular danger can be easily avoided.
“Gas grills pose the most hazards because most folks don’t check the lines on them, and they can rot or get loose,” said Colson. He urged anyone who smells gas or suspects a leak to immediately turn off both the grill and the gas tank, and have them serviced if needed.
With charcoal grills, Colson recommended not using lighter fluid, but rather a light stick or lit paper to ignite the coals. He also said residents tend to make one other common mistake which can lead to fires.
“They put grills too close to the house and they catch fire,” said Colson, “same with deep frying. The next thing you know it’s too close to the deck or being used right on the deck, and then the person walks away for a quick second and it catches on fire.
“You want to make smart decisions... keep them away from the house – at least four or five feet – and position them properly.”
The same type of care needs to be taken with smokers, according to Colson. He said when using these, one other issue can specifically arise with electric smokers: cords can overheat.
“You want to keep an eye on it,” said Colson. “A lot of times folks will say, ‘I’m going to go to bed and let these ribs smoke for twelve hours,’ but what if you have a defective cord? Suddenly you’re waking up to the fire department outside your door.”
One of the most important things Colson advised with any outdoor cooking is to keep pets and children at least three feet away at all times. He said with the July 4 holiday coming, ensuring people and animals are kept at a safe distance is also key when using fireworks. However, there’s one main thing for those living in Fort Knox housing to keep in mind:
“The only fireworks allowed on the installation are the ones done by the Garrison.”
Although fireworks of any kind are prohibited on post, Colson said the message to those who choose to use them off the installation is to take extra care because of how easily something can go wrong.
“That’s where the injuries come in,” said Colson, especially in regards to children. “The parents want to make sure they’re watching them.”
Additional guidelines for fireworks safety can be found at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Whether it’s a family barbecue for the Fourth of July, or just cooking an evening dinner on the grill, Colson said his office just wants one thing for Soldiers and Families.
“Have fun and enjoy yourself, but stay safe.”
Editor’s note: For more information about grilling safety, visit visit the National Fire Protection Association website.