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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- As people prepare for grill season, fire departments urge them to carefully prepare and inspect the devices, in order to avoid making costly--and sometimes deadly--mistakes.

Charles Norman, a High Point fire fighter, reiterated a statistic from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)--that each year, an average of 10 people die from fires associated with grills.

The majority of those fires--7,200 per year--involve gas grills, as opposed to charcoal or other solid fuel grills.

Norman said all grills must be adequately cleaned and inspected prior to use. Propane grills must be checked for leaks. He suggested the "soapy bubbles test," conducted with a spray bottle of soapy water. The solution is sprayed onto the hose, and if the hose has a leak, the bubbles will seep out of the leak source.

NFPA suggests if a grill has a gas leak, the gas in the tank and grill must be shut off, and a professional must service it before use. If the leak continues upon servicing, NFPA urges bystanders to back away from the grill and call the fire department.

For charcoal grill users, Norman strongly cautioned them to ensure they purchase the correct type of lighter fluid. They must use only charcoal starter fluid--not charcoal fluid, which is more flammable. He also said proper disposal of charcoal is critical in preventing fires. Oftentimes, people throw out the charcoal before the coals have completely cooled--thereby creating a fire hazard.

Grills should be placed at least 10 feet from homes and 25-feet from apartment buildings. However, Norman reiterated using a grill or hibachi on a level above the ground floor is prohibited.

For a full list of grilling safety tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association's website.

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