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It’s Barbecue Season–And the Season for Severe Burns and Smoke Inhalation

Even though barbecues are enclosed units and are used outside, the chance of suffering severe burns from careless use of them is high. The following story is prime evidence of that: According to the Naples Daily News in Florida, a 71-year-old woman was rushed to a Tampa hospital in early May with burns over almost 30 percent of her body after an outdoor grill caused a gas explosion at her home. She was very fortunate, however; by the next day she was recuperating at home.

An emergency call came in around 7 p.m. to the local fire department, and fire engines from the city of Naples Fire/Rescue Department reached the home less than seven minutes later. The responders found the patient seated and covered in wet towels.

A brief fire was caused by the gas explosion, but was out by the time responders arrived. They were able to cut off the gas supply to the grill. The woman was transported as a precaution by ambulance to the Tampa General Hospital Regional Burn Center, with first-degree burns reported on 22 percent of her body, and second-degree burns on five percent of her body, largely to her neck and her face.

Here is the careless part: According to one fire official, the woman reported that she had been smelling gas for the previous couple of days. The official said an investigation found that gas had been leaking into the cabinets located above and below the grill, and when the woman went to light the grill, the lower cabinet exploded, emitting a fireball that engulfed her legs and traveled up to her face. Her shirt caught fire, and fed the flames, allowing them to come into contact with her skin.

A fire chief said he visited the home with a fire marshal the day after the incident to further investigate the cause of the fire, and determined there was either a leak in the liquid propane piping or in the grill itself. He said the liquid propane is contained in an underground tank that supplies the entire house, including the kitchen stove and pool heater.

The moral of this story is that if you smell gas for more than a minute or two in or around an area, you must find out exactly where that gas is coming from, or call a professional to come in and locate the source. It is NOT a normal occurrence to smell unlit natural gas for longer than a few seconds. If so, it probably means that there is a leak somewhere–and the slightest spark can cause an explosion that could hurt you or others far worse than the very fortunate woman in Naples.

Lastly, any barbecue that is in use should be kept far away from the house or an indoor porch, because any buildup of smoke in an enclosed area can lead to smoke inhalation that can damage the lungs, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.

So please think carefully every time you fire up the barbecue this summer. Click here to go to a web site with excellent safety tips for using a barbecue or grill.