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Keeping a Handle on Open Flames

With another Texas summer right around the corner and temperatures on the rise, backyard parties and outdoor camping trips are in full swing. Now is the time to put your meats of choice on the outdoor grill or over a fire-pit. You might even put some vegetables on the grill, but remember, this is Texas. Meat . . . is . . . KING.

While at the grill, you may have a few guests gather around you, whether for conversation, to observe your grilling technique, or even to offer comments about your grilling technique.

Maybe you're roasting marshmallows for s'mores and letting the little ones take a turn holding the skewer over the flame for the first time.

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Whether you are a charcoal or gas kind of grill-master or a s'more whisperer, make sure you don't lose sight of the most important thing when having a good time around the open flame: fire safety. We all know, fires are horrific.

According to the National Fire Protection Association's recent report chronicling 2013-2017, on average, 10,200 home fires are outdoor-grill related, with 19,000 people going to the emergency room. These fires are said to have caused an average of 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $123 million in direct property damage. Gas grills are the main culprit, responsible for an average of 8,700 home fires.

In all fairness, that's probably not going to be you or yours. However, many sparked up their grills thinking about having a good time and finding the worst scenario. If you're serving alcohol at your get together, be extra cautious since alcohol is flammable and can present a whole host of other problems to consider

There are ways to keep your good time good when it comes to cooking over an open flame, and it's not difficult.

Keep It Distant

You want to make certain your grill, fire-pit or campfire won't come into contact with anything not meant to be flammable. A good distance away from the house (10-15 feet seems reasonable), clear from overhangs and railings.

With 27% of home fires started by an outdoor grill occurring on a patio, courtyard, or terrace, and 29% starting on an exterior balcony or open porch, you want to make distance your best grilling buddy.

You also want to keep the grill from close proximity with tree branches, your r.v., cars, camping equipment, and preferably, not sitting on untreated wood on a patio. Fire retardant grill mats are available to keep your surface protected. Consider the clothing you're wearing. You don't want any articles of clothing dangling near an open flame.

The last thing you want to keep distant from your grill is you. Don't leave your grill unattended, and if you should have to leave it, leave a responsible person to attend it in your absence. Make sure to snuff out that fire-pit before calling it a day as well.

Keep It Clean

If you're sparking up the grill for the first time or if you've already been using it, residue on the grill can catch flame where you aren't expecting it.

You want to keep your grill clean. After it cools down from use or if using it for the first time this summer, give the grates, lid and burners a good scrub with a grill cleaner and/or wash it with the hose. Make sure that drip pan gets a good cleaning since it's a trap for fat drippings, which are a natural flame accelerator.

Speaking of flame accelerators, if you're using a charcoal grill, only use charcoal starter fluid and refrain from adding other flammable liquids.

Keep It Inspected

Since gas grills have caused the most damage, you want to inspect for gas leaks. A water/soap solution over the hose to the gas tank will bubble if there's a leak. The smell of gas will also tip you off to a leak or bad connection. Fix the connection and/or replace the tank/hose before flaming up the grill.

Even if you're around the campfire or fire-pit, keep an eye on it, no matter how much fun is going on.

Again, you and your friends are smart and safety conscience and odds are, this isn't registering much on your to-do or to-think-about list. But as an independent insurance agency, we hear and read stories about some of the most unexpected home insurance scenarios ALL THE TIME. We would do a disservice to you not to mention this at this time of year.

We want your summer to be claim free. However, do know that if the worst should happen to your home, and by all means we hope it doesn't, we want you to have a plan.

Insurance For Texans is here for you. We certainly know home insurance. In our book, when it comes to protecting our fellow Texans, coverage is KING.

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