Emergency 101 – Grill Fire Dangers & Safety

Grill fires are more dangerous than you may think – play it safe!

by Benton Best – May 25, 2017

We all love a good cookout! Events like these bring families and communities together in nice weather to enjoy fun, laughter, and food. But sometimes these events can take a tragic turn.

According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), food grill fires result in an estimated average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in property loss each year. In fact, from 2006 to 2008, an estimated 5,700 grill fires on residential properties occurred annually in the United States and more than one quarter of home fires are started by outdoor grills (National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Today, Benton Best explains some simple steps you can take to avoid becoming one of these statistics, and hopefully prevent your loved ones from injury or death due to a grill fire.

First, it’s important to know the basics of grill danger areas and what the hazards are. Of course, the fuel source is one of the biggest threats and one of the most common fuel sources is the standard liquid propane gas.
A basic tank is simply filled with propane liquid using a special machine that forces the propane into the tank under pressure, and it stays pressurized inside the tank until the valve is released. When the valve is switched open, the gas turns to vapor and escapes through the opening. The vapor is highly flammable and extremely dangerous if not taken seriously.

Before use each time, check the fuel tank for dents, damage, rust, or leaks. If you find any issues, make sure to take it out of service, and only use it again once it has been properly serviced and cleared by a technician.

Next, look at the tubing and all connections between the tank and the grill itself. This can be done by applying a small amount of soapy water and turning the gas on. Listening for the sound of gas escaping and look for popping bubbles as an indication of a gas leak. If you see or hear a leak, turn the gas off, tighten the connections and try again. If you are still unable to correct the problem, take the grill out of service until it can be repaired (National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)). Do not ever use matches or lighters to look for leaks.

Also, it’s important to check the inside of the grill and the grill surface. Lift the cover and look for holes, gaps, debris, and animal nests. Check the grill plates themselves to ensure that they are free of left over grease, charcoal, or other combustible products. Remember, other than food, anything that can burn should be removed from the grill area. This includes from inside the grill itself.

Finally, whenever it is unattended or not in use, it’s important that all burner controls and cylinder valves of the grill and fuel tank be in the closed position. 49% of grill fire-related deaths occur due to grill fires that started when the grill was left unattended.

It’s important to remember that a grill should always be placed outside and away from a structure, regardless of the fuel source. It is important that the area be properly ventilated to prevent you or your friends and family from getting sick from carbon monoxide poisoning or other issues related to the products of combustion.

Also, if a grill fire becomes uncontrollable, having it next to a structure dramatically increases the chances of a structure fire. For example, the plastic siding on a house can be extremely flammable if a grill fire occurs near it. Also, anything on fire that falls out of a grill onto a wooden deck can easily catch the deck on fire, followed by the house it’s attached to. Finally, grilling with a porch roof or anything above you is also dangerous as heat and flames go up.
Next, it’s important to never fill a closed lid with gas before lighting it. This can create a dangerous flash fire or fireball which can quickly cause bodily harm and potentially catch other things on fire. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for properly lighting your grill.

It’s also important to always wear appropriate clothing when grilling. Although it may be convenient to grill shirtless or in shorts and sandals, this puts your safety at risk of serious burns and deformities. A bathing suit is NOT proper grilling gear.

Finally, it’s important to always to have a backup plan ready in case there is a fire. Have baking soda on hand for any small grease fires, and have a working fire extinguisher nearby in case the fire gets out of control.

If a small fire does occur and it is safe to do so, apply an extinguishing agent, close the lid of the grill, and immediately turn off or disconnect the fuel source. When in doubt, call 911 and get the professionals on the way to assist you in preventing the loss of life or property.

Grills can be extremely dangerous, but they don’t have to be. Don’t take risks, keep yourself and your loved ones safe when using a grill. Choose to be safe. Hopefully we’ve given you some good tips how.


Idea/Concept: Benton Best
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Benton Best
Additional Home Page Staff: Rhonda Pearson

Produced by Vogt Media
Supported by Mansfield University, Matthews Motor Company

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