TRENTON, NJ – The July 4th celebration typically means firing up the barbecue pit for tasty cookout classics like hotdogs and hamburgers. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) Division of Fire Safety and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) believe the upcoming Independence Day holiday is an opportune time to offer residents safe barbecuing tips and remind everyone that the personal possession of fireworks in New Jersey is illegal.
“We encourage everyone to follow all safety guidelines and fireworks laws which are put in place to protect us,” said William Kramer, Jr., Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety and State Fire Marshal. “We also want to remind everyone to use proper precautions when handling propane gas and grilling equipment; this will help ensure a safe holiday celebration, without serious accidents and injuries.”
Kramer notes concerns relative to refilling an existing tank or exchanging one from your local retailer:
- Make sure your cylinder has a sealed plastic cap on the valve. Double-check the valve is closed tight before transporting.
- Secure the cylinder in your vehicle. It should be placed in the rear car seat and fully secure so it does not roll around in the car. NEVER place it in the trunk, if you are involved in a rear end collision it could rupture. Also, should an accident occur, first responders are put at risk if they are unaware it is in the vehicle.
- Limit the number of cylinders transported in your vehicle to two at a time.
“Properly and regularly maintaining your gas grill are key preventive steps,” said Kramer. “One safety measure that is just as significant, but not as widely emphasized, is correctly transporting your propane tank. It is imperative the tank is fully secure and visible.”
In addition to annual gas grill maintenance, the Division provides daily safeguards that will help prevent fires:
- Know your grill. Read the manufacturer’s guidelines. Look at the owner’s manual or on the internet for product usage guidelines.
- Always check for leaks. To check, fill a spray bottle with soapy water and spray all the threaded connections. Bubbles will appear if you have a leak. DO NOT attempt to light the grill until you have checked all connections and verified they are leak free.
Keep a fire extinguisher near the grill at all times.
- If a grill flares up, first close the cover, this denies the fire oxygen and then shut off the gas. Extinguish any remaining flame.
- When you are finished grilling, turn off the burner valves before turning off the supply valve. A closed supply valve mitigates mishaps.
- Always use the cylinder in an upright position.
- Propane collects as a liquid, therefore it can also leak as a liquid.
- NEVER use a grill inside, under an open porch, alcove, or garage. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning in confined spaces and is deadly.
- Store extra propane tanks outside and away from the grill.
- Maintain your grill. Clean it regularly during the season and protect it from rusting by using a high quality grill cover.
Kramer says charcoal grills require similar precautions, however problems usually occur with when large amounts of grill fluid are used to ignite the charcoal too close to a structure.
“Smaller grills can be the most dangerous, because often people assume their size denotes it’s acceptable to use in a confined spaces like a porch or apartment balcony. In reality, small grills and hibachis concentrate heat, and increase the chances of igniting whatever surrounds them,” he added.
In addition to practicing safe grilling, residents are reminded that fireworks are illegal in New Jersey.
“Fireworks are unpredictable, dangerous and they are illegal in New Jersey,” said Harold J. Wirths, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “Celebrate Independence Day with family and friends, not in a hospital emergency room.”
Nationally, more than 10,000 people are injured by fireworks each year, with more than 65 percent of those injuries occurring in the month around July 4th according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In New Jersey it is illegal to sell, possess or use fireworks. Public displays are allowed but they require a permit issued by a municipality and must be produced by qualified pyrotechnicians. Oftentimes advertisements to purchase fireworks in neighboring Pennsylvania can mislead New Jersey residents into thinking fireworks bought across the border are legal. Pennsylvania law does not preclude the sale of fireworks to out-of-state residents. However, bringing fireworks into New Jersey is illegal under New Jersey law.
Any individual who possesses or discharges fireworks is guilty of a petty disorderly offense and subject to a maximum fine of $500 and/or a jail sentence of up to 30 days. The sale of fireworks is a crime of the fourth degree, with a maximum fine of $7,500 and/or a jail sentence of up to 18 months.
Concerned citizens should contact their local police departments about illegal fireworks.