Fire Safety – Grilling
Grilling by the numbers
- Seven out of every 10 adults in the U.S. have a grill or smoker*, which translates to a lot of tasty meals. But it also means there’s an increased risk of home fires
- In 2011 – 2015, fire departments went to an annual average of 9,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including 4,100 structure fires and 5,500 outside or unclassified fires.
- In 2014, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills
- July is the peak month for grill fires (17%), including both structure, outdoor or unclassified fires, followed by May, June and August
- A failure to clean the grill was the leading factor contributing to the fire in one –fifth of all grill structure fires (19%). In 17%, something that could catch fire was too close to the grill
- Leaks or breaks were the factor in 11% of grill structure fires and 23% of outside and unclassified grill fires
- Gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires overall than their charcoal counterparts
- Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors
- The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck, railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Gas and charcoal grills should be a minimum of 10′ away from buildings.
- Never use gas or charcoal grills on balconies or under combustible awnings.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
- Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grill and in trays below the grill.
- Never leave your grill unattended.
- Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 15 minutes before re-lighting it. Learn more about grilling safety from the National Fire Protection Association.
Guy Colonna, NFPA Division Manager, Industrial ＆ Chemical Engineering, gives some basic tips on how to prepare your grill before your first cookout of the season.
Before you use your grill:
- Check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.
- Check the gas (propane) tank hose for the potential (gas) leaks. To do that:
- Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle.
- Turn the propane tank on. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see).
- If there are no bubbles, your grill is safe to use.
- If there are bubbles, turn off the tank and check connections, then have your grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
- If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department immediately.
When the grill is on:
- As you are cooking, if you smell gas, turn off the gas tank and burners.
- If the leak stops immediately, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
- If the smell continues, move away from the grill and call the fire department immediately. Do not move the grill.
- There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
- If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
- Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
- There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
- When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.