Barbeque Grill Safety

THE WORDS SUMMER AND BARBEQUE go hand in hand. But a grill-caused fire can make your summer gathering memorable for all the wrong reasons. East Pierce Fire & Rescue offers these safety tips to consider while planning your summer grilling festivities.

General Grill Safety

  • Regardless of the type of grill you're using, give it lots of space - at least 10 feet of clearance from any structure, trees and shrubs.
  • Make sure the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won't touch or bump into it. Remember, grills stay hot after you finish cooking.
  • Never leave the grill unattended.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
  • Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
  • Periodically clean grease and other debris from the grill. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing that might catch fire while you're cooking.
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!

Grilling Safety Tips Sheet

Propane Grills

Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports more than 500 fires annually resulting from grill misuse or malfunction. Consider the precautions when using propane grills:

  • Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source, and never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
  • Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.
  • Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
  • Avoid using a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof. 
  • Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
  • Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
  • When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.

Charcoal Grills

Because charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when burned, charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat. CO is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments.

The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:

  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
  • Since charcoal produces CO fumes until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store the grill indoors with freshly used coals.
  • Place grills with at least 10 feet of clearance from any structure, and have a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose or 4 gallons of water.
  • Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you're holding it.
  • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
  • Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill.
  • Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
  • When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.

Electric Grills

In many ways, electric grills are safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:

  • Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.
  • When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
  • As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
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