Fire safety in the summer sun

  • Published
  • By Tim Johnston
  • 30th Civil Engineering Squadron fire inspector
Summer is here and that means barbecues, lemonades by the pool, and camping trips. It also means increasing awareness of summer fire hazards. This summer doing all the things that make the season so fun means doing them safely.

Cool summers and outdoor fire places

Anyone who has lived on the central coast knows how cool the summers can be. A person can wake up in the morning wearing a T-shirt on a beautiful sunny day and go home in the afternoon wearing a coat. To compensate for these temperature changes many Air Force members are purchasing free standing clay or metal portable outdoor fireplaces from stores such as the Four Seasons on base. These fireplaces are used for parties or just relaxing with the family and friends. They are safe when properly used, but have the potential for starting a fire if used in the wrong place or at the wrong time of year. 

When using an outdoor fireplace, never use it under the patio or in the garage. Keep it away from bushes, trees, shrubs or any combustible or flammable items. Everyone must use common sense when placing it around the house or in the back yard. Outdoor fireplaces should never be so close that the radiant heat can be felt on the house or patio furniture. A good rule of thumb is 15-20 feet away from any structure.

Timing and proximity are also critical factors when using these fire places. Vandenberg's fire season has already started and the wind speeds can reach 30 knots on any given day. People should not use these fireplaces if their house/backyard bumps up against heavy brush areas or tree lines. In theses areas there is a strong likelihood of outdoor fireplace embers igniting nearby brush and causing a devastating fire.


When it comes to grilling, the first thing to remember is to keep the grill away from other things, including the house and any shrubs or bushes. When using a charcoal grill, use only starter fluid made for barbecue grills. Never use gasoline and never add liquid fuel to re-ignite or build up a fire.

For those people with a gas grill, they should turn off the valves when not using it and store the gas cylinder outside, away from any buildings. Always follow the manufacturer's operating instructions, and if repairs are needed, use a trained professional.

No matter which type of grill someone has, it should never be left unattended after being lit.

For further information concerning summer time fire safety or the fire danger rating system, call the Vandenberg Fire Prevention Office at 606-4680.