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Fire Marshal: Grill Safely this Holiday

Fair Lawn Fire Marshal Jay Bender offers tips for a safe Memorial Day

Months before this weekend's warm springtime celebrations of Memorial Day, back on New Year’s Eve 2010, a fire  a home on Williams Street and displaced a Fair Lawn family. The blaze started in a propane grill on a deck and climbed the back of the house, soon engulfing the structure.

Every Memorial Day features the sound of parades, marching bands, kids playing and the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill.

While it is fun to watch the local fire department, fire trucks and rescue vehicles march in the parade, it is not fun to see them at a resident’s home putting out a fire or responding to an emergency. Therefore, Fair Lawn Fire Marshall Jay Bender is getting the word out to keep grillers and barbecue chefs safe.

“Everyone should be particularly aware of fire safety practices when grilling and barbecuing, because each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, there are 8,000 home fires involving outdoor grilling,” said Bender.

In 2006, it was reported that over 3,400 people were “treated in the ER for accidents” mostly for burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and lacerations while working with a variety of grills. That was an increase “from 3,086 in 2005.”

Bender said that because the governing body of Fair Lawn wished “all residents a safe and enjoyable summer season,” he wanted to offer several tips to keep people safe.

“First, a grill should not be placed too close to anything than can burn,” said Bender. The fire that tore through the home on Williams Street is a prime example of that, he said

Second, Bender said it is best to keep children and pets away from the grilling area.

“Furthermore, barbecue lighters should be out of reach of children,” said Bender.  “Small children can figure out how to pull the trigger.”

A third tip he offered was to “never add starter fluid to an existing fire or use other flammables to start a fire.” That could increase the power of the fire and become unmanageable and harmful, he said.

Fourth, Bender said people using a propane grill should “check propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for first time each year.”

“The best way to do this is with soap and water applied to the hose. This reveals the escaping propane by releasing bubbles, and should you find that so, turn off the propane tank and grill, and seek professional service,” said Bender. “And if the leak does not stop, call the fire department.”

Finally, all grills should be kept outside, he said.

“This helps to avoid fire and carbon monoxide hazards, barbecue grills should be used only outdoors,” said Bender.

Bender said he would be more than happy to answer all questions about fire safety for the holiday. To get in touch with the fire marshal, call 201-794-5408 or e-mail him at FireMarshal@FairLawn.org

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