Grilling Fires

Integrated Fire SystemsFire & Life Safety Updates

Make Sure That You Grill Safely This Summer

Memorial Day is the unofficial summer kick off, which means that we are now in the midst of BBQ season! In the US 7 out of 10 adults have either a grill or smoker. These statistics mean that while there are a lot of tasty meals being grilled in the summer, there is also a high probability of grilling fires while making these tasty meals.

When cooking food outside you have many different options for your heat source. The two most popular options are propane grills and charcoal grills. Both have their pros and cons, but each grill has their own separate set of safety precautions.

Propane Grills

If you are using a propane grill it is important that you check for gas leaks at the beginning of each grilling season. An easy way to do this is to coat the gas hose with a light layer of a soap and water solution. If there is a gas leak then bubbles will be released and will show up in the solution. Smelling propane is another way to tell if there is a gas leak.

If you notice a gas leak you need to turn off your grill and gas tank immediately. Then you can determine how serious the leak is. If the leak stops once the grill has been turned off then you need to get your grill serviced by a professional before you can use it. If the leak does not stop once you have turned the grill and gas tank off then you need to call your local fire department immediately.

Once you have tested your grill for leaks and you know that it is working properly, then it is time to start grilling. When are grilling with a propane grill, NFPA wants you to make sure that you:

  • Place the grill away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grills can be more complex to start than propane grills. One of the reasons for this is because there are a few different ways that you can light a charcoal grill. The first method is to use a charcoal chimney starter that allows you to use newspaper as fuel. The second method is to use starter fluid to ignite the fire. The third method is to use an electric charcoal starter. No matter what method you use to start your charcoal grill NFPA wants you to make sure that you keep these safety precautions in mind:

  • Only use starter fluid that is specifically made for charcoal grills.
  • Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • If you use an electric starter, make sure that you use an extension cord that is specifically for outdoor use.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing of them in a metal container.
Grilling Fire Statistics

According to NFPA the peak months for structure, outdoor, and unclassified fires caused from grilling are:

  • May – 13%
  • June – 14%
  • July – 17%
  • August – 12%

NFPA reports that between 2013 and 2017 there was an annual average of the following:

  • $123 million in property damage
  • 10,200 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues
  • 5,700 unclassified outside fires
  • 4,500 structure fires
  • 10 civilian deaths

Between 2013 and 2017 NFPA also reports that there was “an average of 19,000 patients per year [that] went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grill”. 49% of those patients’ injuries were thermal burns. This includes burns from direct fire and contact with hot objects. Another 38% of those patients were children under the age of 5.

No matter what grill option you choose, it is important to make sure that you are following all of the important safety precautions to ensure that you are a safe and happy grilling season, without grilling fires!

-The IFS Team