NFPA urges grilling fire safety

Published on April 20, 2010
As grilling season approaches, remember recipes for fire safety 

April 20, 2010 – The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is reminding outdoor cooks not to forget about grill fire safety as the peak months for grill fires arrive. People with gas grills should take extra precautions. In 2003-2006, gas-fueled grills were involved in 81 percent of reported home grill fires and were involved in 6,400 home fires, including structure and outside fires. The leading cause of gas grill fires was a leak or break in hoses.


“Nobody wants to see their backyard barbeque go up in flames,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “There are simple measures that can be taken to avoid charring dinner and setting anything on fire.”

Although gas grills are used approximately one-and-a-half times more often than charcoal grills, they were involved in five times as many fires. Charcoal or other solid-fueled grills were involved in 1,300, or 16 percent, of home grill fires. The leading cause of these fires was something that could burn being located too close to the grill.

In 2007, approximately 9,600 people went to hospital emergency rooms because of thermal burns caused by grills. About one-third of the burns from gas grills happened while lighting the grill. Gasoline or lighter fluid was involved in roughly one-quarter of charcoal or wood grill burns. Children under five accounted for roughly one-quarter of thermal grill burns. Most of these burns occurred when the child bumped or touched the grill.

NFPA offers the following grill safety tips: 
  • Use propane and charcoal grills in outdoor areas only.
  • Make sure the grill is located well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three foot “kid-free zone” around the grill.
  • Use long-handled grilling tools to give plenty of clearance from heat and flames.
  • Remove grease or fat build up from the grills and in trays below the grill so it cannot ignite.
  • Never leave the grill unattended.
 
  AUDIO
Ted Lemoff, NFPA Principal Gases Engineer, talks about grilling safety:
  How a propane gas grill works
  How to handle propane gas safely
  Safety concerns of charcoal grills
  Safety tips when using the grill
  Why newer gas grills are safer

Also see: NFPA's report, "Selections From Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment - Grills," by Marty Ahrens, November 2009.
All visitors: Download this report. (PDF, 260 KB)
 
Gas grills: 
  • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose. If there is a propane leak, it will release bubbles. If you do find a leak and there is no flame, do the following:
    • Turn off the gas tank and grill.
    • If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
    • If it does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas at any point while cooking, get away from the grill immediately and call the fire department.
  • Use only equipment with the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
  • Never store propane gas tanks in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

Charcoal grills: 

  • If you use a “charcoal chimney” to start charcoal for cooking, use a long match to avoid burning your fingers when lighting the paper.
  • If you use starter fluid, only use charcoal starter fluid and never add charcoal fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited.
  • Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid to get the fire going.
  • Keep charcoal fluid away from children and heat sources.
  • When you are finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container.

For more safety tips, videos, facts and figures, and audio clips, please visit www.nfpa.org/grilling.

NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

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Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275                                              

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471 USA
Telephone: +1 617 770-3000 Fax: +1 617 770-0700