NFPA stresses cooking safety at the grill

Published on April 30, 2009


NFPA's Principal Gases Engineer Ted Lemoff talks about grilling safety:

April 30, 2009— The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds grilling enthusiasts and basic backyard cooks alike to remember grilling safety as the outdoor cooking season heats up. In 2003-2006, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 7,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year, causing 120 reported injuries and $80 million in direct property damage.

“Nothing dampens an outdoor barbeque like a fire or burn,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “With simple steps, mishaps can be easily avoided and dinner saved.”

One-third of the non-confined home structure fires involving grills started on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch, 18% started on a courtyard, terrace, or patio, and 11% started on an exterior wall surface. Of these fires that involved gas grills, the leading contributing factor was a leak or break in hoses or other equipment, and the leading contributing factor of fires involving charcoal or other solid-fueled grills was something that could burn being too close to the grill.

In 2007, 18,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills.

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

NFPA offers the following grilling safety tips:

  • Gas and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Place the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area:   have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
  • Use long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Charcoal grills

  1. Use only charcoal starter fluid to start a fire.
  2. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid to get the fire going.
  3. Store the charcoal starter fluid out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.

Gas grills

  • Check the gas tank 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:
    • 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 attempt to move the grill.
  • Only use equipment bearing the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ 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 tank and leave it outside.

If you have a grill fire, immediately move a safe distance from the fire and call 911.

For flare-ups:

  1. Be prepared to keep the fire under control. If it is possible, raise the grid that the food is on, spread the coals out evenly, or adjust the controls to lower the temperature.
  2. Normal flare-ups can be handled with a cup of water.

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