Summertime in Philadelphia is a lot of things — notably, hot.
William Patterson of New Jersey, one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, called Philadelphia “the warmest place I have ever been in.” And fellow delegate Pierce Butler of South Carolina called Philly’s summer climate “excessive.” In other words, Philadelphians are used to muggy, hot summers.
We typically cool our sweltering spirits with fun and fellowship by way of barbecues and block parties, though. Fireworks are a staple of family-friendly fun, too. In fact, Fourth of July’s Wawa Welcome America! festival is basically one giant, citywide block party involving all of the above — and more!
Still, it’s important to remember that anything involving fire — grilling or fireworks — requires following strict safety measures and, of course, the law.
More to the point: In terms of fireworks, leave the professional displays to the professionals, please.
By following a few commonsense tips from the Philadelphia Fire Department, you can easily have a safe, fun holiday with your family, friends, and neighbors.
- Treat the grill with respect and take a few minutes to prepare. Do not wear loose fitting clothing while cooking and never, under any circumstances, allow children, even with supervision, to start outdoor cooking equipment. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions before you start using your grill.
- Grill at ground level only. In Philadelphia, the use of barbecue grills, whether they’re propane or charcoal, is only permitted at ground level. This means no grilling on your roof deck, folks. Backyards, closed off streets during block parties, and patios are perfect places for grills, however.
- Give the grill space and keep it outdoors. When in use, grills should be at least 15 feet away from any structure and at least three feet away from any combustible materials. Don’t be tempted by a rainy day to use outdoor cooking equipment inside — not even in a garage or on a porch or balcony.
- If you’re using propane, inspect the grill thoroughly. Check the grill for any holes, cracks, loose connections, or damage before you get started. Make sure hoses and piping and clean and free of bugs and dust. Never store spare gas containers under or near the grill, and always turn the valves off when the grill is not in use. You can use a soap and water solution applied with a paintbrush to check for leaks: If the soapy water bubbles in an area of a connection, you may have a gas leak. Don’t use the grill if you do!
- If you’re using charcoal, always grill in an open, well-ventilated space and observe proper lighting technique. Grilling produces carbon monoxide, so be sure to use charcoal grills in the open air. Only use lighter fluid with charcoal, and take a short five to 10 minute break after adding fluid to the briquettes to allow the lighter fluid to penetrate charcoals before lighting. Once the grill is lit, never add starter fluid: Fire may follow the stream of fluid back to the container, causing an explosion and scattering flaming liquid.
- Gasoline is never a way to start a grill! Never use gasoline to start or use a grill — ever.
- Finish just as you started: Treat the grill with respect, and take a few minutes to shutdown properly. If you’re using propane, turn off all the vales and make sure they’re tight. If you’re using charcoal, use caution when disposing the ash: Ashes may contain live coals which can start a fire. The safest method to dispose of ashes is to wet them thoroughly with water before emptying the grill. Always clean old ash out of the grill.
- Observe safe storage of your grill and grilling materials. Always store propane cylinders, including those attached to barbecues, upright and outdoors in a shaded, cool area out of direct sunlight. Let the grill cool to the ambient temperature before placing any covers over it or putting it back in storage.
- Observe local laws regarding fireworks! Generally speaking, explosives or projectile fireworks are illegal in Pennsylvania. This means no bottle rockets, firecrackers, roman candles, or flaming-ball-shooters. Handheld sparklers, ground-based sparklers, smoke devices, or novelties like snakes are fine, though. If you want to see the big ka-booms, attend or watch the Wawa Welcome America! show on July 4th!
- Firing a gun into the air is illegal and dangerous. Discharging a firearm in the city limits is illegal and deadly: It is not OK, cool, or remotely legal to fire a gun into the air as a “celebration” ever. It has been known to cause injury and death to people blocks away or neighborhoods away from where the gun was discharged. The Philadelphia Police Department will aggressively investigate any allegations of celebratory gunfire.
Of course, in case of emergency, Philadelphians should call 911 immediately.
Have a safe and happy summer!