It’s been a long, cold winter; now it’s time to bring out the grill and celebrate summer the way it was meant to be – with cold beer and barbecues! Most of us can’t wait to have that first gathering of friends in our backyard and fire up our grill. Backyard barbecues define summer, and if you’re like me, you have been dreaming of the first one of summer for months! There’s something about a barbecue with friends and family that says, “Life is good,” and it is, so let’s keep it that way with some basic safety practices.

Location, Location, Location

Whatever you do, never barbecue on a covered porch or worse inside. Though it may be tempting it could turn out to be disastrous. Your barbecue should be positioned at least ten feet from your house, garage, or anything else that is flammable. You want to keep over the barbecue clear as well. That beautiful tree in your backyard might make a nice shady place to barbecue, but it could turn into a giant torch if it catches on fire. Before you even begin barbecuing this year, purchase a small fire extinguisher and keep it in a place that is close and accessible.

Degrease Your Grill

Grease is extremely flammable, and though it might be tempting to take the easy road and burn it off, it’s better and safer to give it a thorough cleaning with a wire brush. Flare-ups can be deadly, and grease accumulates faster than you might think. Check the bottom of your grill thoroughly as a few pounds of grease can build up after just a few cookouts. A clean grill is a safe grill, and besides, the foods will taste better too!

Lighting Your Grill

Whether you have a gas or charcoal grill, you should be very careful when lighting it. The majority of barbecue accidents are caused at this stage, and a party could end before it even gets started. Gas grills should be checked for obstructions to gas lines and the lines themselves inspected for cracking which could cause a leak. If in doubt, don’t use your grill and have it inspected by a professional. When lighting a charcoal grill, NEVER EVER spray lighting fluid onto an open flame. Read the directions if you must use lighter fluid, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. It is better to use lighting cubes or pre-soaked briquettes if you can.

Keep Children Clear

Children’s laughter is a wonderful and welcome addition to any summer barbecue. Their playing and frolicking is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but it should take place well away from the barbecue area. A fun game of tag could easily turn into a tragedy, so designate a play space, and make it very clear to children that they must keep clear of the barbecue area.

Barbecues can be lots of fun, but fire is involved, and it can be dangerous. Following some basic safety rules will allow you, your friends, and family to enjoy one of summer’s most fun festivities in a safe and happy environment.