June and July are the peak months for grilling-related fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), for the years 2006-2010, fire departments responded to an average of 8,600 home and outside fires each year, resulting not just in $75 million in property damage, but 10 deaths and 140 injuries.
The vast majority of incidents – an annual average of 7,100 – involved gas grills. Some 28% of all home fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace or patio and another 28% started on an exterior balcony or open porch. In almost half of the outdoor grill fires, flammable or combustible gas or liquid, such as propane or charcoal starter fluid, was the item first ignited in almost half of home outdoor grill fires.
So, how can you minimize your risk? Here are some suggestions from NFPA:
- Only use propane and charcoal grills outdoors.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
- Remove grease or fat buildup from the grills and trays below the grill.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- Don’t ignite a gas grill lid with the lid closed.
- Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. If there are bubbles, there’s a leak. If you smell gas, but there is no flame, close the gas tank and turn off the grill. If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If it doesn’t stop, call the fire department.
- If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.
- If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 15 minutes before re-lighting it.
For charcoal grills:
- If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the charcoal once the fire has started and the coals are burning.
- Keep charcoal fluid away from heat sources.
- Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children.
- When finished, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
You can get more information from the NFPA Web site.