Grill Fires Surge During the Summer: How to Protect Yourself

From the moment the snow melts, people everywhere start to pull out their grills. Grilling is a homey style of cooking that simply can’t be replicated indoors. It’s perfect for entertaining or a family meal, but that doesn’t mean its always safe. Summer can also mean grill fires, and the numbers are rising each year.

To help track these numbers, the National Fire Protection Association performs a survey every few years regarding fires. Their most recent report evaluated grill fires between the years 2009 and 2013. Some important findings are as follows:

  • In the United States, there were 8,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, and barbecues between 2009 and 2013. This number included both indoor and outdoor fires. It also only included the fires that local fire departments responded to. Any fires put out by residents were not included in this research.
  • Approximately 10 people die from grill fires, and another 160 are injured each year. Most of the time, these losses come from structure fires started by grills.
  • 83 percent of grill fires come from outdoor cookers run by gaseous fuel. The other 17 percent use charcoal and solid fuels.
  • Most grill fires are the result of poorly cleaned grills, close proximity to flammable materials, and unattended grilling.
  • Leaks or breaks in piping were the leading cause of gas grill fires. Often, gas grills caused massive fires that burned down structures.
  • June and July are peak months for summer grilling fires, because more people are trying to get that grilled flavor our ancestors taught us to enjoy, and the heat of those months increases flammability in designated grilling areas.

Though the flames within most grills seem to be largely contained, its a lot easier to start a fire than many people realize. Adhering to proper safety measures when operating grills is essential for reducing the volume of deaths and injuries.

grill fires.
Watch for a flame up in your grill.

“Grilling season is a great time of year for friends and families to have cookouts and tailgate, but before starting the season, be sure your grill is working properly and review safety tips,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. Propane gas hose leaks or breaks were the leading factors contributing to gas grill fires. It is good practice to check for damage before using it for the first time each year, and to clean and check the entire grill regularly.

According to Carli and the NFPA, here are several important tips for staying safe around the grill each summer.

  • Choose the right grill. Gas grills are the most common and most convenient, but they also cause the most fires. Look for grills, such as these top rated outdoor gas grills, with good reviews and high safety ratings.
  • Designate a safe grilling area. Make sure its far away from any structures and that there’s no dry brush nearby. A large concrete pad is ideal.
  • Maintain your grill. Check the gas tank hose to make sure its properly hooked up and that there are no cracks. Keep the grill clean to avoid fires.
  • Have water and a fire extinguisher nearby. You never know when a grill fire will strike. If you have fire extinguishing equipment nearby, you can quickly fix the situation.
  • Watch for gas smells. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately move away from the grill and call the fire department. Don’t move the grill, and keep a hose handy until fire fighters declare the grill safe to use.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.