HAWTHORNE, NJ - Emerging from a long, hard winter, many Hawthorne residents are eager to take advantage of the arrival of Spring.  A Spring which, perhaps, seems at times like a hybrid of July heat and May allergies, nevertheless does not dampen the spirits of the tight-knit community eager to sit Old Man Winter back in his icy rocking chair and keep him there.

And with the incoming warm weather and the longer daylight hours comes one of the most venerable of vernal traditions: the barbeque.  To barbeque is to participate one of the most ancient bonding activities that has linked mankind with friends and family ever since he learned to walk upright, harness the power of fire, and change our bodily constitutions and social dynamics forever. 

Though the typical Hawthorne resident does not necessarily grill the meats and vegetables he has snared or grown himself, unless one considers a jaunt to the grocery store the 21st Century suburban version of hunter-gathering, the other old risks which have accompanied a barbeque still remain.

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Fire and food, in harmony, make for a pleasant day with family and friends.  But out of balance, the consequences can be disastrous or even fatal.  With the approach of grill-season in mind, TAPinto Hawthorne spoke with Hawthorne Fire Chief Joseph Speranza, about what residents can do to have a safe barbeque.

One of the methods, he says, is simple maintenance.  "The most common call we get for this is from grease in a grill.  It can be very dangerous.  The best way to avoid a grease fire is to clean the drippings tray."

Cleaning a grill might seem like a no-brainer, but it is a commonly overlooked task.  The Hawthorne Fire Department has reported fires caused by grease in uncleaned ovens; grills are no exception.  Since one is outside and grilling itself is largely a seasonal activity, one can sometimes overlook the oily, sticky threat which lurks below the coals.  "Two years back we had a porch fire caused by a suspected grill," Speranza said.  "Grill fires can be quite intimidating."

The heat generated from a barbeque can cause a grease ignition, resulting in a large, very hot fire, just as it would on a stove or in an oven.  Under no circumstances should water ever be thrown on a grease fire.  The effect of doing so could cause a splash and an eruption of flame over a wide area.  A household fire extinguisher is a great investment and can potentially snuff out a huge threat if properly used.  Speranza said that the round Weber-type grills were often the types which caught fire due to neglect. "Scrape the grill, clean the tray.  All that is designed to be cleaned."

For gas grills, Speranza recommends inspecting the fuel hose as well.  "Sometimes the line from the propane tank cracks and erodes," he said.  Rubber dry rot or wear over time can cause a fissure in a gas line, potentially resulting in a propane fire.  "Good common sense with cleaning and a good inspection of the propane line.  It's really an inexpensive fix, too," Speranza said, should a line be found damaged.

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