With Memorial Day almost here and summer just around the corner, chances are you’ll be firing up your outdoor grill soon (if you haven’t already!). In fact, May is National Barbecue Month so there’s no excuse not to break out the charcoal or flip that igniter!

Although humans have been cooking food over an open flame since practically the day after fire was invented, it wasn’t until the 1940s that it caught on in the U.S. as a backyard fun-omena. Early open-air cooking was a challenge, though, as the only grills available at the time – brazier grills – weren’t designed for consistency or safety.

Brazier grills were open to the elements and had no vents, which often made grilling a dicey proposition. Standing around one in a stiff breeze was a bit like being in an ash storm, with the added thrill of an occasional red-hot ember flying your way. They were an entertaining and inexpensive novelty, but food cooked with them often ended up incinerated on the outside and raw on the inside. (How Stuff Works)

In 1952, industrious backyard BBQ fan, George Stephen, came up with a better design. George cut a metal buoy in half to create a top and bottom section and added a grate – and the Weber grill was born.

Grills that used natural gas followed in the 1960s. Although they were more expensive than charcoal grills, they were more convenient (although some argue that the flavor of charcoal grilled food is better).

Over the past 50 years, backyard grills have remained a favorite way to spend a warm summer evening in the beautiful outdoors. No doubt the quality and safety features of grills have improved since the early days. Now, grilling is so common that it can be easy to overlook the potential dangers of cooking over an open flame.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that between 2009 and 2013, firefighters responded to “an average of 8,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year, including an average of 3,900 structure fires and 5,100 outside fires. These 8,900 fires caused annual averages of 10 civilian deaths, 160 reported civilian injuries, $118 million in direct property damage.” According to NFPA, leading causes of grill fires were “a failure to clean, having the grill too close to something that could catch fire and leaving the grill unattended.”

As backyard BBQ season kicks into high gear, we hope you’ll take a few moments to review the grilling safety tips below and make sure your grill is in tip-top shape!

Did you know there are over 350,000 home fires reported each year? Learn more

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