In Arkansas, 8-year-old Michael Meekins is bravely, but slowly, recovering from terrible burns over most of his body.
The cause of his horrific injuries is something that could have easily been prevented: a barbecue grill that was left unattended for just a few minutes. While no adult was around, officials say, Michael threw gas on the grill.
Some 66 million people will fire up the grill this year and most of the time, everything goes just fine. But according to the National Fire Protection Association, barbecue grills of all kinds are involved in more than 6,000 fires and explosions in an average year.
Grill accidents send 20,000 people to the emergency room, and cause $29 million in damage.
Carey Welt, an official with the New York Fire Academy in Nassau County, says greasy food runoff could pose a particularly dangerous situation.
Welt demonstrated that grilling fatty foods could lead to a common, but still risky, grease fire. And the danger is compounded should that burning grease melt the rubber hose of a propane gas grill.
"Now when the hose itself was burning, it failed," said Welt during a demonstration. "And now it was a propane-fed fire, not just a grease fire."
Basic Safety Tips
To keep cookouts safe, consider these tips:
When you buy a new tank of propane, take it home and get it out of the vehicle immediately. This is especially important in hot weather because an overheated tank can leak.
Maintain your grill. Gas grill owners should check the hose and fittings with soapy water before every use. If there's a leak, the gas will form bubbles.
Replace old grills — especially if it's a gas grill over 10 years old. New grills have important safety improvements.
Never leave a hot grill unattended.