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Local fire official stresses importance of safely grilling ahead of the holiday weekend


Fourth of July is expected to bring a fun and firework filled weekend to Mid Missouri. The holiday is also notorious for gatherings and grilling.

The Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association reports the Fourth of July is the most popular grilling day of the year. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2017-2021 an average of 22,155 people went to the emergency room because of injuries involving grills.

In approximately 20% of grilling fires reported in that time frame the grill had not been cleaned before use, according to the NFPA.

Boone County Assistant Fire Chief Gale Blomenkamp says those planning to barbecue over the holiday weekend need to keep a close eye on their grill.

"There's a lot of distractions around the holidays, a lot of drinking, a lot of fireworks, a lot of kids, a lot of family stuff," Blomenkamp said. "So, people that are grilling just need to understand that their main priority is to focus on grilling....leave the distractions to other people and and do what you need to do."

Blomenkamp advised that people use extra caution if they plan to grill on a wooden deck or surface.

"If you're grilling on a wooden deck, make sure you got some sort of mat or something underneath your grill to catch any of the hot ash or hot embers that may fall out," Blomenkamp said. "And, when you're done grilling, make sure you put it out or shut it off."

According to the NFPA, more than one quarter of grill structure fires started on an exterior balcony or open porch.

The Columbia Fire Department also released safety tips ahead of the holiday.

When using a charcoal grill, it's suggested that people:

  • Only use proper starter fluid on your charcoal grill and store it out of reach of children.
  • Never add lighter fluid to hot coals.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children and teach them to tell an adult if they see matches or lighters.
  • Properly dispose of hot coals by dousing them in water and stirring to ensure that the fire is completely out. Always use a metal container to dispose of coals or ashes.

When using a propane grill, it's suggested that people:

  • Always check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the tubes are not blocked and that the hose is not leaking.
  • To check for leaks, apply a light soap and water mixture to the hose. If bubbles start to form, you have a leak. If this happens and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and the grill and do not use it until your grill is serviced by a professional.
  • If the leak does not stop after turning the tank off, call 911.
  • If you ever smell gas while cooking, move away from the grill immediately and call 911.

Blomenkamp also noted that the Boone County Fire Department is anticipating fires from barbecues and fireworks this weekend. However, he said the expected rain this week should help in keeping them to a minimum.

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Olivia Hayes

Olivia is a summer intern at ABC 17 News.


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