Have a Fun and Safe Summer!

May 29th, 2024

As the weather heats up and we dive into summer, it’s time to start enjoying the outdoor activities we put on hold over the past 9 months. Although these activities bring us joy, camping, boating, grilling, and summer holidays introduce another set of fire and life safety risks. It’s important to remind ourselves of these risks and the steps we can take to potentially prevent accidents.

Warm Weather, Cold Water

As the temperature outside rises, people are drawn to lakes, rivers, and oceans to cool off from the summer heat. While it may be warm outside, our natural bodies of water are not. The contrast between warm weather and cold water can present unexpected challenges and potential risks, such as drowning, hypothermia, and incapacitation, even in the strongest of swimmers.

When water is cold, our bodies react differently. The National Center for Cold Water Safety states, “45 degrees Fahrenheit air feels cold, but 45 degrees Fahrenheit water feels like it’s burning your skin because water has a much greater density, so it conducts heat away from your body much faster.”

Water as warm as 77 degrees Fahrenheit can trigger cold water shock. Cold water shock is the body’s immediate response to entering a cold body of water and can trigger changes to breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. The uncontrolled breathing or gasping can quickly cause a drowning emergency if you are unable to stay above water.    

As you prepare to head to the lake, river, or ocean, be sure to check the weather and water temperature before you go. Instead of jumping into cold water, try to ease into it gradually to let your body adjust to the temperature.

Additional water safety tips include:

  • Always wear a life jacket
  • Never go in the water alone
  • Do not assume the water is warm just because the air temperature is high
  • Have a way to contact help if needed
  • Learn to swim

Fireworks

The 4th of July is one of the most popular holidays of the summer. Among the excitement of fireworks, it’s critical to prioritize safety to prevent accidents or injuries.

Fireworks can cause injuries to hands, fingers, faces, ears, legs, eyes, or arms, ranging from a bad burn to losing an extremity. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were an estimated 10,200 fireworks-related injuries in 2022.

Safety Tips to Prevent Injury:

  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks, and always have an adult present.
  • Wear protective eyewear if you’re lighting fireworks or nearby.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move quickly away from the firework.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a firework when lighting the fuse.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at anyone.
  • Never light fireworks in your hand, and never use them indoors.
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.

Along with injuries to our bodies, fireworks can also cause fires. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 19,500 fires are started annually from fireworks.

Safety Tips to Prevent Firework Related Fires:

  • Use fireworks a safe distance away from people, houses, dry grass, and other flammable materials.
  • Keep a bucket of water and hose nearby in case of a fire.
  • Light fireworks on a flat and level surface.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, to prevent a trash fire, soak the fireworks in a bucket of water overnight prior to disposing of them.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase and set off fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.

Remember, those residing in unincorporated Pierce County are allowed to light fireworks twice a year, once on July 4th and on December 31st. The Pierce County Fire Marshal has the authority to temporarily ban fireworks if conditions are unsafe for their use.

Grilling

According to the National Fire Protection Association “10,600 home fires are started by grills each year, on average and 19,700 patients went to the ER per year because of injuries involving grills.”

Whether you’re a pro barbecuer or new to the grill, please remember that BBQing needs to be done outside, and the BBQ should be located away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

Here are some tips for keeping safe while grilling:

  • Never leave your grill unattended while in use
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area
  • Ensure the grill is stable
  • Use long-handled utensils

Campfire

Having a campfire is a popular summer activity, however,  campfires are also one of the leading causes of wildfires. Familiarize yourself with the following tips for building a safe campfire.  

How to pick your campfire spot:

  • Check to make sure you are at a site that allows campfires
  • Make sure there are no burn bans and it’s not too windy
  • Find out if the campground has an existing fire ring or fire pit
  • Choose a spot 25 feet from structures and anything that can burn

How to prepare your campfire pit:

  • Clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs
  • Dig a hole in the dirt and circle with rocks or use the firepit provided

How to build your campfire

  • Gather wood for your fire
  • Ensure you have a water source (bucket of water, hose) and a shovel
  • Ignite wood with a match or lighter
  • Discard the match into the fire
  • Keep the fire small and under control

How to extinguish your campfire:

  • Allow the wood to burn completely to ash
  • Pour water onto embers until hissing sound stops
  • Stir water into the embers with a shovel to bury the fire until it is cool

Remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. Never leave a fire unattended.

Helpful Resources:

Cold Water Hazards and Safety

Fireworks Safety

Grilling Safety

Campfire Safety