Fire safety essential when grilling

  • Published
  • By Greg Chesser
  • F.E. Warren Fire & Emergency Services assistant fire chief, fire prevention
There is nothing like outdoor grilling. It is one of the most popular ways to cook food.

However, fire safety is an essential ingredient in any recipe that calls for cooking on an outdoor grill.

Fire departments respond to an estimated 8,800 home fires annually that involve grilling according to a National Fire Protection Association report. These fires cause an average of 140 injuries and $96 million in direct property damage.

A grill placed too close to anything that can burn is a fire hazard, and since they are very hot when in use, they can cause burn injuries.

Taking steps to keep grills a safe distance away from kids; pets; and things that can burn, such as branches, deck railings and overhangs, will help prevent home fires and injuries caused by grills.

Six out of seven home grill fires involved a gas grill, and the leading contributing factor was a leak or break in hoses or other equipment. The leading factor in charcoal grill fires was keeping flammable items too close to the grill.

For general grilling safety tips, audio clips, statistical information and a slide show on how to prepare your gas grill, visit

The NFPA offers the following safety tips:

General safety
· Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors and should not be placed near the home, near deck railings, under eaves or under branches.
· Keep children and pets away from the grill area: have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
· Keep grills clean by removing grease or fat buildup in trays below them so it cannot be ignited by the grills.
· Never leave grills unattended.
Charcoal Grills
· Purchase the proper starter fluid and store the can out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.
· Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.
· When finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
Gas Grills
· Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles. If you determine your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame:
o Turn off the gas tank and grill.
o If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
o If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
· People who smell gas while cooking should immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
· Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory, and follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
· If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off, and wait 15 minutes before re-lighting it
· Always make sure gas grill lids are open before lighting them.