(BPT) - Barbecuing is a big part of tailgating season, but grilling also increases the chances of a fire incident. The National Fire Protection Association reports outdoor grilling causes an average of 10,200 home fires each year — and with over 75% of U.S. households owning a grill or smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, it’s important to take the right precautions.

Before you fire up the barbecue for your next cookout, check out these five grilling safety tips to help protect you and your home.

1. Grill outside and away from structures. Position the grill well away from anything that can catch fire — like siding, deck railings, overhanging branches and vehicles. Always make sure it’s set up on an even surface in an open, well-ventilated area. And be mindful of the grill's vicinity to dry vegetation, tablecloths and outdoor décor.

2. Keep it clean. Before and after each use, inspect all parts of the grill for any needed maintenance or leaks if you are using a propane grill. Remove all grease or fat buildup from the grill and the trays below the grill. And if you have a charcoal grill, make sure the charcoal has cooled down completely before you get rid of it. Charcoal and ashes can stay hot for much longer than they appear.

3. Use the right tools. Use long-handled grilling tools to provide plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping burgers. Use flame-retardant oven mitts when readjusting those hot barbecue vents and wear a flame-resistant apron, which is made of materials that resist burning and melting and can help prevent a burn injury. Also, make sure any loose articles of clothing like your shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings don’t dangle over the grill.

4. Take care and create a safe zone. Just like you would never leave the kitchen while using the stove or oven, you should never leave a lit grill unattended. For an extra level of protection, keep children and pets away from the area by declaring a three-foot “safe zone” around the grill to prevent any accidents. Easily designate the zone with cones or by placing bright-colored duct tape on the ground. This applies to bonfires, too.

5. Be ready to put out a fire. Even if you’re following safe grilling or cooking practices inside or outside, you should always be prepared with a fire extinguishing device nearby, like the portable First Alert EZ Fire Spray. It’s easy to use — just point and spray — and features a familiar lightweight spray-can design. Plus, it discharges four times longer than traditional extinguishers and the firefighting agent is non-toxic, so it won’t damage the grill or cooktop’s surface or the surrounding area and is easy to clean up after use.

By following these tips, you can help make any cookout safe and memorable. Remember, if a fire starts and you cannot safely and quickly extinguish it or a propane tank is involved in the fire, call 911 immediately and evacuate the area. To learn more about fire safety, visit FirstAlert.com.

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