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FLAME ON

But heed our BBQ safety tips sez FDNY

The Brooklyn Paper
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Batten down the pork chops Lucille, it’s barbecuing season. And while some people can’t seem to buy a grill big enough to satisfy their cooking needs, and the number of essential grilling accessories has grown too large for even a highly evolved consumer to handle, outdoor grilling remains a foolproof way to make a meal into a celebration (provided you can keep the Fire Department away).

But just to keep you on the safe side of this rite of summer, we’ve compiled a few safety tips to improve your barbecuing prowess.

According to Lt. Joe Torrillo, the director of fire safety education for the fire department of New York, under no circumstances should the flame from a grill, be it charcoal or gas, flare up higher than 6-inches above the grilling surface.

Similarly, before grilling, Torrillo suggests that you check to make sure that your grill is at least 10 feet away from any combustible surfaces, including trees, benches, fences and clotheslines full of clothes.

And for those combustible items, like your own clothes, that you can’t keep away from the grill - unless you’re a nudist griller, which probably isn’t a good idea either - he recommends keeping them closely wrapped to your body and purchasing a good pair of grilling mitts.

When using a charcoal grill, Torrillo suggests using an electric igniter to light the briquettes, and to avoid the mess and danger of lighter fluid. If you do use lighter fluid, he says you should start by soaking the bottom of the grill with lighter fluid, in order to get all of the briquettes started at once, and then move the container of lighter fluid far from the grill. You should only use matches to light the fluid.

Under no circumstances should you spray lighter fluid near already lit charcoal, he says.

Once finished using a charcoal grill, Torrillo suggests dumping the briquettes in a bucket full of water that should be kept near the grill at all times.

With gas grills, it is most important to routinely check for leaks in the hose that carries the gas from the propane tank to the grill. You can do this by spraying a soapy solution on the hose and the connection points, and watching for bubbling. Especially after installing a new tank of propane, it is important to make sure that you tighten the fittings appropriately. Watch for any flames coming out of the bottom of the grill. They could melt through the hose, and that would be very bad, potentially leading the flame to explode the gas tank.

Finally, contrary to Hollywood lore and the practices of most residents of Brooklyn, it is illegal and dangerous to operate a grill on your fire escape. Although, if you have a terrace, feel free to grill away on it.

Torrillo does suggest that you use only a 1-pound tank of propane with a gas grill on a terrace. If you use a charcoal grill, he suggests making sure the entrance to your apartment is shut tight.

Besides barbecuing in your own backyard, there are a number of locations throughout Brooklyn’s parks where it is legal to operate a grill.

In Prospect Park, there are several marked areas along the perimeter of the park, as well as areas surrounding the Picnic House on the Long Meadow, where barbecuing is allowed. There are also several locations on Manhattan Beach where it is legal to burn your dogs. Consult park maps and signs for specific restrictions.


If you have any questions about the safe operation of your grill, call Lt. Joe Torrillo at (718) 999-2913, or visit the Fire Department’s Web site at www.fdny.org.

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