Warm temperatures mean more time to enjoy the outdoors, and that means more grilling and BBQ parties. Unfortunately, it also means the number of reported injuries and house fires tend to go up every year around this time. Take precaution and follow these seven barbecue safety tips to help keep you and your home safe throughout the barbecuing season.

Grill away from any structures – The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) reports that 27% of home fires started by outdoor grills either began in a courtyard, terrace or patio, and 29% started on an exterior balcony or open porch. Set up your grill in an open area, away from overhanging tree branches and other flammable materials. And never use an outdoor grill indoors.

Use charcoal safety – Charcoal grills are the cause of more fires than gas grills because of the use of lighter fluid to light the charcoal. Lighter fluid can be extremely dangerous if not used properly. Follow the instructions exactly, or use a chimney starter, which doesn’t require flammable liquids.

Use gas safely – The number one cause of gas grill fires is an obstruction in the path of the fuel, usually behind, underneath, or inside your grill where you don’t normally look when prepping it for use. This means you need to regularly inspect your gas grill for potential problems. At the first sign of a problem, turn off your control values and burners, and the fuel tank, and disconnect hoses. Remember, everything will be hot so protect your hands, and always keep children away from the grill.

Check for gas leaks – You can make sure no gas is leaking from your gas grill by making a solution of half liquid dish soap and half water and rubbing it on the hoses and connections. Then, turn the gas on (with the grill lid open). If bubbles form, that’s a sign that the hoses are leaking or that the connections are not tight enough. Turn off the tank and have your grill serviced by a professional before using again.

Keep your grill clean – Remove grease or fat buildup from both the grill and the tray below the grill. Grease that collects in your grill builds up over time and can cause flare ups during a cookout if not cleaned before grilling.

Be aware of cancer-causing substances – Grilling meats (particularly red meat and chicken) at very high temperatures until surface charring occurs can cause cancer-causing substances to form. To minimize the risk you need to:

  • Use marinades (which can reduce the risk by as much as 98%)
  • Do not overcook foods
  • Keep grill temperatures relatively low (under 600 degrees cooking temperature)
  • Use thinner or smaller cuts of meat (like kebabs)

Be ready to put out the fire – Have baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher nearby for other fires. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, keep a bucket of sand next to the grill. Never use water to put out grease fire.

To ensure a safe and fun grilling season, make cleaning, maintenance, and inspection of your barbecue a regular part of your routine.