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City, state officials urging caution with grilling, fireworks

Jennifer Sprouse • Jun 28, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Whether you’re powering up the grill or planning your own powerful light display, the Johnson City Fire Department, as well as state officials, cautions everyone to be safe this holiday season.

According to a release from the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office, the state has averaged 33 fire incidents involving open fired grills per year for the past five years, which resulted in one death, six injuries and more than $4 million in direct property damages.

Rusty Sells, training officer for the JCFD, said grilling incidents have already been recorded in the area this year.

“We have had several instances in the city where a grill has been close in vicinity to the house and actually caught siding on fire,” Sells said. “We’ve had grills turn over and actually catch the deck on fire. There’s actually been two just in the last couple of months where the siding on the houses caught on fire because of the grill being too close.”

To avoid catching a deck, siding or a house on fire, Sells recommended moving the grilling area away from the house.

Some other precautionary tips that could help prevent unintentional grilling fires include making sure the grill lid you’re using is secure, the connections and hoses are tight and in good shape when dealing with propane cylinders, as well as not using too much lighter fluid when lighting up a charcoal grill.

He also said to make sure when using lighter fluid on a charcoal grill that none of the liquid gets on the griller’s skin to avoid a potential burn, as well as making sure the charcoal is completely cooled before of disposing of it after use.

The Tennessee Forestry Division issued a fire advisory release Thursday, urging people to avoid debris burning until conditions improve.

The release said a lot of major fires have been started in the past because of things such as discarded cigarettes, campfires and fireworks.

A city-wide ban on fireworks is still in affect and will continue to be strictly enforced this year by not only the JCFD, but also the Johnson City Police Department, a city of Johnson City release said.

“Fireworks are explosives,” Chief Mark Sirois of the JCPD said in the release. “And because they pose a potential threat to both those who ignite them and to others, the (City Commission) passed ordinances designed to ensure residents’ safety by forbidding the use of fireworks within the city limits. Besides the risk of injury, those in possession of fireworks can be cited into court and have their fireworks confiscated.”

Sells said anyone insistent on dabbling in pyrotechnics should practice some basic firework safety.

“Try not to set off multiple fireworks at the same time. You may have one dud and the rest of them go,” he said. “If you shoot them one at a time it’s a little bit easier to handle that way.”

Sells said he feels the best way to avoid firework mishaps is to avoid using fireworks all together, and to instead enjoy events with fireworks such as Jonesborough Days and Nights and the Fourth of July fireworks display at Freedom Hall.

“At both events, the fire departments are going to be on scene in case something does happen. You can still watch fireworks and just let the professionals do it,” he said.

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