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Residents encouraged to grill safely


It is getting to that time when the warm summer rays will beam down on the grill roasting some summer favorites; like hot dogs, burgers and sausages.

But in order to keep the summer barbecues fun, and tasty, residents should practice some easy precautions. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Michael F. Uttaro, among other fire officers, gathered at the Nassau County Public Safety Center in Westbury, that houses the Fire Marshal’s Office, on Friday to encourage residents to practice fire safety this summer.

“Fire marshals can personally attest to the fact that they’ve been responding to more fires this year than at the same time last year,” Curran said. “That’s why it’s so important to remind people as they get ready for summer, as capacities are loosening and vaccination rates are going up, to take a couple minutes to check your smoke alarm batteries.”

Nassau County is also offering free smoke alarms to anyone who is unable to get one. All residents have to do is call the Fire Marshals Office at (516) 573-9900. The elderly can also receive assistance installing their smoke alarms.

“It is important to point out that cooking is the number one cause of home fires in this country,” Curran said. “Grill fires can quickly and easily spread to the rest of your house and things around it, so never leave your grill unattended. Never use a grill on your balcony or inside your house. When your grill is in use, it should be kept in an open place, away from anything that might catch on fire.”

Uttaro said the reason he wanted to discuss fire prevention with Nassau County residents is because of a number of house fires in Nassau County, including the fire accelerated by a propone tank in East Meadow on May 6 and the deadly fire in Garden City on the same day that claimed the lives of 18-year-old Molly Madigan and her parents Joe and Gail.

“That fire [in Garden City,] we can tell you was an accidental fire caused by smoking,” Uttaro said. “There were two smoke detectors found, none of which were found to be operating. Witness accounts and everything put together concluded that it was not functioning. If it had been functioning, perhaps we would have had a better outcome.”

Smoke detectors have 10-year sealed batteries, Uttaro said, meaning that the batteries do not have to be changed any longer. The alarms are loud enough to rise house occupants from sleep so that they can leave the house on-time.

Residents should also check the alarms a couple times a year to make sure they are functioning correctly.

“Smoke detectors need to be in every bedroom, or any place where sleeping may occur, the hallways or immediately outside the bedroom, and on every level of the house,” Uttaro said. “The best types of systems are the smoke detectors that are linked together. So, if the smoke detector in the basement go off, the smoke detector in the bedroom area is going off too.”

With that being said, Uttaro added, barbecues are the cause of the many fires that local fire departments respond to.

“We’ve already been to several propane barbecue incidents that we’ve had to work with the home owners,” Uttaro said.

Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Theodore A. Horishny then led a demonstration on how to practice propane tank safety. The first step someone can take, Horishny said, is spraying the top of a propane tank with soap water. If the water begins bubbling, that could indicate that there is a leakage. The hose that connects the grill and the tank can also be checked for leaks with the soap water.

If the tank is still leaking after closing it, a resident should contact the fire department, Uttaro said.

“Never leave a propane tank in the trunk of your car,” Horsihny said. “Always put it in the passenger side… God forbid that there’ a leak that didn’t manifest, the trunk would fill up, you hit your stop lights, ‘hello.’”

If the tank is in the passenger seat, the driver may also be able to smell a situation gone array.

If there is a fire while grilling, residents should first close the fuel supply and close the grill to starve the oxygen from the fire. If it continues, they could apply baking soda.

“The benefit is if you had your mini grease fire and clean that baking soda off, clean everything up, make sure everything is safe, you can start cooking again,” Uttaro said.

Residents should contact their fire department if their first attempt to put out the fire is unsuccessful.