How To Stay Safe During Grilling Season

With most of us firing up the backyard barbecue — or at least thinking about it — the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department wants to remind us of the problems a lack of attention can cause.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, grill fires cause an estimated average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in property loss each year nationwide.

Almost half (49 percent) of grill fires on residential properties occur from 5 to 8 p.m.  Thirty-two percent of all grill fires occur in the months of May, June, July, and August, and the leading category of equipment power source is “gas fuels,” (79 percent).

“Heat from powered equipment” is the leading heat source category from grill fires on residential properties. The leading category of factors contributing to ignition is “mechanical failure, malfunction,” (39 percent). Within this category, leaks or breaks of containers or pipes account for approximately 23 percent of all grill fires on residential properties.

Grilling safety tips

Grills, hibachis, and barbeques on residential properties continue to be a high fire risk and, on average, result in more injuries and slightly higher dollar losses when compared to all other fires. It is crucial that we all diligently practice fire safety when cooking or grilling outside and follow these safety tips:

  • Grills should be placed at least 15 feet from any home, building, or combustibles to ensure adequate air circulation.
  • Charcoal must be kept dry. Wet charcoal can ignite spontaneously. Spare propane bottles should be stored outside away from the home. A backyard shed is a good place.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill. Grills continue to give off heat long after cooking has stopped.
  • Never place hot ashes in paper or plastic bags or containers. Only use metal containers for hot ashes.
  • Use Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved electrical starters in place of lighter fluid.
  • Never use a grill on apartment or condominium balconies. This practice is one of the biggest dangers with grills. It is unsafe and against the law.