Summer is the time for outdoor fun, and for many that includes fireworks, grilling out, and campfires. While most people have no problems pulling off these activities safely, fire has inherent risks that occasionally bring catastrophic results. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make, according to fire safety experts, along with tips to make this summer a safe one.
12 Dangerous Mistakes People Make Around Fire and Fireworks
Abandoning a campfire before ensuring it's completely out is a major mistake and a fire hazard. "There's a chance a fire could rekindle and spread sparks and embers," says Tina Boehle of the National Park Service's Division of Fire and Aviation Management. That's a risk to surrounding vegetation (think forest fires) as well as the safety of anyone near the still-hot ashes.
It's likewise dangerous to leave a live campfire unattended. Even calm days can turn gusty, which raises the risk of a stray spark or ember igniting brush, trees, or an entire forest. Smokey Bear may seem like kid stuff, but people of all ages need to take his lessons seriously.
In situations such as an extended drought or low humidity, park services at the national, state, or local level may enact burn bans or fire restrictions in certain areas. Lighting a campfire thinking there are low odds of getting caught is a bad idea. Fires under these conditions can quickly spiral out of control.
Cigarette butts and discarded matches can smolder, even if they seem to be completely out. Make a habit of soaking them with water and discarding them safely (along with anything else used to light a fire) instead of tossing them on the ground.
Heat from the underside of a vehicle, whether it's an ATV or the family car, can be hot enough to start a fire. Stick to the roads and well-groomed trails -- or go for a hike instead.
Just as campfires should never be left unattended, home grills should likewise remain under careful watch. The National Fire Protection Association reports that over a five-year span, home grills accounted for nearly 9,000 fires, which resulted in 10 deaths, 160 injuries, and $118 million in direct property damage. The area around the grill should also be clear of any items that could catch fire, and the grill shouldn't be placed too close to a house or other structure.
Fireworks are part of the Fourth of July fun, but when lit by non-professionals, they can cause serious or fatal injury. In the month around the holiday, an average of 230 people visit the emergency room each day, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. One way to limit the risk is to keep fireworks (and lighters) out of the hands of young children.
If a firework fails to ignite properly, don't try to relight it. There is always a chance it will go off during the attempt. Instead, the National Council on Fireworks Safety recommends waiting at least 20 minutes, then soaking the dud in a bucket of water. To keep the soaked duds from drying out and presenting a further hazard, double-bag them before disposing in the household garbage.
Avoid the temptation to twist the fuses of several fireworks together. The result may be exciting, but it can also create an unexpected and dangerous explosion. A better plan is to designate one person to be in charge of the fireworks and light them off one at a time. Don't forget, of course, that everyone should retreat a safe distance once the fuse is lit.
If Roman candle wars or fights sound like a fun way to let off steam … just don't. Also, even if a firework doesn't look like it would do a lot of damage, there is no way to tell beforehand if it's going to malfunction. No matter what, holding a firework while lighting it is never a good idea.
The CPSC has a good tip that many people probably don't know about: Fireworks packaged in brown paper are generally meant for professional use only. Without proper training, which includes handling, positioning, and lighting the fireworks, the casual fireworks aficionado can run into trouble and get into danger pretty quickly.
Whether it's Fourth of July, a campout, or a simple backyard barbecue, always have a water source close by when fireworks are around. This can be a water hose, a bucket of water, or something similar that can be used in the event of a fire getting out of hand. It can prevent severe injury or property damage.