Think Grill Safety – Don’t Let It Burn You

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Provided by Prince William Fire & Rescue

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Summer has finally arrived, and so have the continuous advertisements of outdoor cooking equipment and the variety of foods one can purchase for grilling. In a 2015 survey conducted by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), 75% of adults in the U.S. own a grill or smoker, and approximately three out of five (62%) households that own a grill own a gas grill, while 53% of grill households own a charcoal grill. Although grilling occurs throughout the year, July is the peak month for grilling fires. No matter the type, size, style or method of cooking, when using a grill, one should take necessary steps in learning how to safely grill to avoid fires, burns or worse.

The majority of outside or unclassified grill fires (40% or two out of every five) started on a courtyard, terrace, patio, an exterior balcony or open porch as did 27% of home structure fires involving grills. Eighty-three percent (five out of every six grills) involved in home fires were fueled by gas and 13% by charcoal or other solid fuel.

Key Findings — In 2014,

  • 16,200 patients were treated in emergency rooms involving grills:
    • More than half (8,700) injuries were thermal burns
    • Children under the age of five accounted for 1,600 or one-third of the 4,900 thermal non-fire grill burns.

Leading factors in outdoor grill fires were:

  • Something that could catch fire was too close to the grill
  • Unattended cooking
  • Leak or break in the grill (primarily gas grills)
  • Failure to clean

To prevent fires and grill-related injuries, Prince William County Fire & Rescue Chief Kevin McGee advises residents to follow these simple safety tips:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors.
  • Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas, and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area:
    • Declare a three-foot “safe zone” around the grill.
  • Never allow children to grill.
  • Provide the chef with several long-handled grilling tools to give them plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping food.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Charcoal grills:

  • Purchase the proper starter fluid and store the can out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited to get the fire going.
  • Place the coals from your grill in a metal can with a lid once they have cooled and store several feet away from the house and any combustibles.

Propane grills:

  • Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
    • Use a light soap and water solution applied to the hose. This will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles.

Grill Safety for Apartments & Condominiums:

  • County code Section 9.1-45 prohibits the use and storage of any device that uses flammables, e.g.,  gasoline, charcoal lighter, liquefied petroleum gas or propane on a balcony.
  • Do Not use grills or smokers within 15 feet of any apartment, condominium or building/structure.
  • Constantly attend to the grill or smoker when in use.

For more information on grill safety for apartments and condominiums in Prince William County, visit

For more information on grill safety, visit U.S. Fire Administration at and the National Fire Protection Association at


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