Memorial Day is a time to honor veterans, but it’s also a time when families and friends get together to celebrate, often outdoors.

Memorial Day also kicks off the summer, which means the start of grilling season. While out grilling or sitting around a fire this holiday, remember there are some hazards anytime fire is involved.

“Grilling accidents aren’t something we see an influx of around here,” said Via Christi Interim Director of Community Relations Kayla Joy. “We see more accidents related to water as the summer kicks off.”

Even though grilling injuries haven’t been common in the past, safe operation techniques are good to keep in mind. The Kansas State Fire Marshall has some quick tips to stay safe this summer:

• Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.

• The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

• Keep children and pets away from the grill area.

• Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.

• Never leave your grill unattended.

“Charcoal grills have embers that fall down, so they need to be set on a hard surface like concrete, not a wood deck,” added Pittsburg Fire Chief Mike Simons.

Fire pits are also a great way to relax with family and friends, and the State Fire Marshall also has a few safety practices for those too:

Positioning Your Fire Pit

Whether you are using a portable fire pit or planning to install a permanent one, positioning is key to safety:

• Make sure the fire pit is, at minimum, 10 feet away from any structure or neighboring yard—25 feet is preferable.

• Do not position a fire pit under a covered porch or low hanging tree branches.

• Always place a fire pit on a non-flammable surface, such as patio blocks or concrete.

• Do not put a fire pit on a wooden deck or directly on grass.

Preparing Your Fire Pit

• Clear all flammable materials away from your fire pit before using it. Five feet is a good distance. This “break” in vegetation will help prevent an escaped fire from spreading.

• Piling dirt or rocks around the pit will also help prevent any fire on the ground from escaping.

• The fire pit should be at least 6 inches deep at the center and 2 feet across, to help keep the embers and flames contained.

Lighting Your Fire Pit

• Always check wind direction before you light a fire and remove anything flammable downwind of the pit.

• If it is too windy, do not light your fire pit.

• Do not use lighter fluid to light a fire pit; instead, a commercial fire starter stick with kindling on top is ideal.

• Do not use any flammable fluids (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) to light or relight fires.

“Typically accidents are associated with dry conditions,” Simons said. “This year all this rain will hopefully help us out.”

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.