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Caution urged before firing up the grill

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 11:45 a.m.

Firing up the gas grill is a ritual of summer for millions each year, with juicy hamburgers and steaks prepared on the grill marking the transition to warmer weather. Nationwide, millions of consumers use propane or natural gas for barbecue grills.

Considering the sheer number of gas grills in use, the industry has an enviable safety record, but about 30 people are injured each year as a result of gas grill fires and explosions, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Fire damage to homes, apartments and other property resulting from these accidents runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

'Although gas grills are safe if used properly, there is always the potential for an accident or injury. That's why it is important for people to observe some basic precautions when using a gas grill,' said Jeff Ruffner, market manager of Agway Energy Products in Greensburg. Agway Energy Products provides a variety of energy fuels, including propane, which is widely used for grills.

Since many accidents occur when the grill is first used after being left idle for the winter or just after refilling and reattaching the propane gas tank, Ruffner recommended the following:

  • Follow all manufacturers' directions for operation; shortcuts invite problems.

  • Check the grill's valves and hoses for cracks or blockages. A pipe cleaner is a handy tool for clearing the blockage.

  • Scrub lava rocks with soap and water to remove the grease. Two teaspoons of soap in a pint of water is about right.

  • Splash a little of the soapy water on the connections at the same time. Bubbles can indicate a leak that needs your immediate attention.

  • Keep lighted cigarettes and other open flames away from the grill at all times.

  • When transporting a propane cylinder to and from your home, make sure it is secured in an upright position in a well-ventilated area.

  • At the end of the season, disconnect the tank from the grill and store the cylinder in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors. If you must store indoors, avoid placing the canister near the hot water heater or other appliances with flames.

  • Keep the grill several feet from the house or nearest building when in use. Remember that many apartment complexes prohibit grilling on decks.

  • Turn the control knobs to OFF when not in use.

  • Always open the grill lid before attempting to light the gas. Fuel built up under the hood can create a dangerous situation.

  • Never move a grill that is in use.

  • Police the grill area. Keep children at a safe distance.

  • Use long-handled utensils. Flame-retardant mitts help avoid burns.

  • If an accident does happen, use baking soda to control a grease fire and have a good fire extinguisher handy. Don't fool around - dial 911 for help at the first hint that things are out of your control.

    For more information, contact Agway Energy Products at 888-249-2924, or visit their Web site at .

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