WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Before firing up the grill this weekend, consider taking steps to stay safe.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 5,700 grill fires take place on residential properties annually, most of which are caused by a malfunctioning gas grill. These fires also cause an average of $37 million in damage to properties, structures, possessions and cause thousands of emergency room visits due to burns.

“Grilling season is a great time to enjoy friends, family, food, and the outdoors, but accidents can happen,” said Stacey McConnell with AAA Western and Central New York. “Before you barbecue, take a few minutes to review grilling safety tips and to ensure your equipment is working properly.”

To ensure safe barbequing:

  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby
  • Keep grills clean by removing grease and fat build-up
  • Never grill indoors or in confined areas
  • Read and follow the grills owner’s manual before use
  • Place grill at least 10 feet away from walls and deck railings and keep away from decorations
  • Always make sure your grill lid is open before igniting
  • Never leave a lit grill unattended
  • Turn the grill and gas off if the flame goes out, then wait at least 15 minutes before relighting

Also, if you are just pulling your grill out for the summer, consider taking these steps for proper maintenance and storage:

  • Check grill hoses for cracks, holes, and blockages
  • Run a soap solution, one part liquid soap, one part water, along hoses and at connections. If the solution bubbles, this is a sign of a gas leak that needs repair
  • Store propane tanks outside and away from homes.