UNC Health Care

Celebrate Safety on July 4th

Independence Day is supposed to be fun. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s dangerous, too. Between grilling and fireworks, burns are a major reason people end up in the emergency department over the holiday. About 16,600 people a year go to the emergency department because of grill injuries; that number is 11,100 for fireworks injuries.

But with a little care, you can stay safe. Read these tips from the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center before the party begins.

Avoid Grill-Related Burns and Fires

Use these tips to make every cookout a safe one.

  • Never leave the grill unattended. Unattended cooking is a major cause of house fires.
  • Set up the grill on level ground in an open area away from structures, trees, shrubs and grasses.
  • Keep a phone handy in case of emergency, along with a hose, bucket of water or fire extinguisher to put out flames.
  • Establish a safety zone around the grill to exclude kids and pets from the area.
  • Don’t grill when consuming alcoholic beverages or taking medication that makes you drowsy.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing or elaborately decorated aprons that might get caught in flames.
  • Use only utensils rated for use over high heat and open flame, including fire-resistant grill mitts.
  • Only use propane or gas grills outdoors.
  • Review gas grill operating instructions each year.
  • Check propane hoses for leaks or breaks (the leading cause of gas grill malfunctions), and make sure charcoal grill pans don’t have any holes.
  • If you smell gas when grilling, move away immediately and call 911.
  • Never add starter fluid or any other flammable liquid to flames or glowing coals.
  • Let coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container with a lid.
  • If you can’t put out a fire, move away from the area and call 911.

Avoid Fireworks-Related Burns and Fires

Even if it rained recently, fireworks burn hot enough to ignite damp ground cover and structures. That’s why fire and burn prevention experts encourage everyone to leave Fourth of July pyrotechnics to professionals. But if you must create your own celebration, follow these fire prevention tips.

  • Keep a garden hose, fire extinguisher or bucket of water nearby to quickly respond to fires.
  • Set off fireworks in wide-open areas away from trees and structures.
  • Do not ignite fireworks inside structures, on porches or on or near dry grass or leaves.
  • Avoid using fireworks on windy days so sparks don’t carry.
  • Never point fireworks at structures, trees or anything else flammable.
  • Keep children and pets away from the ignition area.
  • Don’t underestimate sparklers, which can cause third-degree burns. Don’t let children handle them, and keep a bucket of water or a garden hose close by in case sparks ignite the grass or nearby buildings.

How to Treat a Grilling- or Fireworks-Related Burn

If the burn is small, you can cool it with water. Remove any clothing or jewelry, clean the injury with mild soap and water and apply a small amount of antimicrobial ointment before covering the wound loosely with gauze or sterile dressing. Don’t use adhesive that will stick to the burn.

Don’t:

  • Apply butter or grease to the burn.
  • Put the burn in ice water.
  • Break blisters.
  • Remove clothing that sticks to a burn.

For second- or third-degree burns, or burns that cover more than 5 percent of your body, seek immediate medical attention or call 911.


The Jaycee Burn Center offers advice on identifying and treating burns depending on severity. When in doubt, seek medical care.