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updated 6/9/2008 2:57:02 PM ET 2008-06-09T18:57:02

Whether your barbecue uses charcoal, wood, propane or natural gas, don't even think about firing it up until you are sure it's safe.

For wood-burning units, make certain that vents are clean and operable and that there are no areas that have rusted through. Embers can wreak havoc with a nearby wood pile or even your home.

A barbecue that is in disrepair is dangerous at best. So take these precautions before grilling:

  • Thoroughly clean your grill each season. Grease buildup can cause a fire that cannot be easily extinguished.
  • Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your home or other combustible surfaces.
  • Don't barbecue indoors, including in a garage. You can literally suffocate every living thing in your home.
  • Don't barbecue on a wood deck if there is a chance that dry grass is growing beneath it. You can start a fire that can't be easily extinguished.
  • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof. It is both dangerous and illegal in many areas.
  • Keep children away from the grill.
  • It may sound silly, but a nearby garden hose (or a fire extinguisher) is a must.
  • Rotted wooden handles, a bad thermostat and frayed rotisserie wiring should all be repaired or replaced.

Cooking with gas
Gas grills require even more attention. Be sure to inspect the venturi (near the gas control valve). For some reason spiders are attracted to the supply tubes. They can nest in the tiniest places.

Each season we disassemble the gas lines between the shut-off valve and the burners. Everything is scrubbed with soap and water and blown out using a high pressure air nozzle (this requires a compressor) so be prepared to make a trip to your local gas station if you don't have one.

The burners themselves need to be wire brushed and all of those little tiny holes need to be free of obstructions.

Check and secure all gas connections. A leak can be fatal. Soapy water sprayed onto each connection and fitting will reveal an unwanted leak.

Start your grills
Once your barbecue is up and running, follow a few rules to a safer and more pleasant experience:

  • Don't use gasoline or paint thinner to start your fire. You may lose a substantial amount of hair in the process.
  • Alcoholic beverages can be as flammable as paint thinner — some even more so. Leave your cocktail glass on the table in the kitchen.
  • Use starter fluid sensibly. Apply it to the coals and then light your fire. Don't stand next to the fire and squirt lighter fluid onto the flames.
  • Don't wear loose clothing when barbecuing unless you are set on sacrificing yourself to the fire gods.
  • When using a gas grill never turn the gas on with the lid closed. An accumulation of gas can result in a horrendous explosion.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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