“Fire is never a gentle master”.  (Proverb quote)

July is national grilling month. In deference to our good friends in the fire response business, we wanted to note that for the purposes of this article. Even though it may be obvious to you and me as we prepare for celebrations in the outdoors, in all the excitement of the summer holidays we sometimes neglect the safety aspects.

Each one of us has their own story about experiences with fire. To a greater or lesser degree all of us at one time or another have experienced the various aspects of the dangers of uncontrolled fire. Whether by luck or design most of us escape any serious injury. But many have paid the ultimate price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In my case I luckily escaped the fire with no injury. A co-driver and I were crossing a muck-based everglades field in a 2 ½ ton army truck. It was a cool February day in south Florida in 1970, but the sawgrass was bone dry and the sun hot. A backfire blast from the exhaust stack shot a fire ball rearward and the ropes on the cargo area canvas caught fire. Additionally, a wad of fire landed on the ground next to the truck and immediately began spreading underneath the carriage toward the fuel tanks.

In vain my companion and I attempted to stamp out the fire first with our boots and then with our jackets. It was spreading so rapidly we only had one chance to escape. We both jumped back in the truck and my driver floored the accelerator to move the truck away from a possible explosion. It worked. But the fire was now spreading exponentially across the field with the gusting wind hopping and skipping it to new flaming pools in seconds. The truck speed could barely outrun the growing monster.

At the end of the day a company of over 100 National Guardsman were assisting three Florida Forestry Rangers with their plowing equipment to put out the fire. They were successful in containing it. But not until it had burned over three thousand acres and one unlucky fish camp that stood between the field and the rural dirt road. My point in all of this was the astonishing speed with which the fire spread. Even had we had a fire extinguisher we did not stand a chance in controlling the depth and breadth of the conflagration in its accelerated state. I hope never to be placed in that position again. We were very lucky.

So, when you start prepping those burgers and dogs for the 4th remember to observe all safety tips and keep family members away from those hot and dangerous grills. Here is a great safety review from NFPA on summer grilling.


P.S. One other quick non-fire safety tip. NEVER use a wire brush to clean your grill. Small wire particles have been known to become lodged in the meat and cause serious infection in the mouth and throat. Stay safe and enjoy the Holiday.

Bob Neely

Executive Director

Alarm Association of Florida