Often considered the unofficial kickoff to summer, Memorial Day Weekend signals the start of grilling season! Frequent summer barbeques and cookouts, however, also lead to increased risk of home fire. Fire departments are called to an average of 9,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues each year. Celebrate safely this Memorial Day by following a few simple safety tips.

For starters, carefully read or reread the owner’s manual before even lighting the grill. Strictly follow all usage, assembly and safety specifications. Contact the manufacturer ahead of time with any questions.

Remember that grills are intended only for outdoor use. Never barbeque in your home, garage, or other enclosed space, as dangerous fumes may accumulate.

Similarly, be sure to open your gas grill before lighting. This ensures gas can escape through the top, as opposed to dangerously collecting beneath the lid.

While grilling, employ a three foot safety radius between the grill and any guests, eaves, deck rails and siding. Increase distance as space permits.

Never leave a hot grill unattended. Nearly three in five adults have walked away from their grill while cooking, one of the leading causes of home fires.

Thoroughly clean your grill after each use to prevent a grease fire. In case of emergency, always have a working fire extinguisher on hand.

When finished, let any coals from your grill cool and place them in a metal can with a lid. As an extra precaution, douse with water.

* Source: usfa.fema.gov, “Grilling Fire Safety”