The Thrill of the Grill – Don’t Let It Burn You!

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Provided by the Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue

It’s evident summer has finally arrived as you pass through the various neighborhoods inhaling the pleasant aroma of food cooking on the grill. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports of U.S. households, 86% own at least one outdoor BBQ, grill or smoker and 59.3% of households own a gas grill. Although grills vary in size, style and methods of cooking, one should take necessary steps in learning how to safely grill to avoid fires, burns or worse.

Grilling occurs throughout the year, yet, July is the peak month for grilling fires followed by May, June and August. In 2007 – 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 156,000 home structure fires involving cooking equipment. These fires caused an annual average of 400 deaths, 5,080 injuries and $853 million in property damage – accounting for 43% (2 out of every 5) reported home fires according to NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).

In 2012:

 16,900 patients visited the emergency room due to grill-related injuries.

 16% (1 of every 6) home structure fires in which grills were involved in the start of the fire, something that could catch fire was too close to the grill.

 20% (1 of every 5) reported grill fires were due to leaks or breaks.

 Gas grills contributed to a higher number of home fires than charcoal grills:

 Charcoal or other solid-fueled grills contributed to an annual average of 1,400 home fires (600 structure fires and 700 outside fires).

More than one-quarter (29%), of the home structure fires involving grills, started on a courtyard, terrace or patio, as well as, an exterior balcony or open porch. Flammable or combustible gas or liquid was the item first ignited in almost half of home outdoor grill fires. In 43% of the home outdoor fires, in which grills were involved, 51% were outside gas grills, and 29% were gas grill structure fires in which the fire started when a flammable or combustible gas or liquid caught fire.

To prevent grill-related injuries, 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:

o Declare a 3 foot “safe zone” around the 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.

o 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, i.e. gasoline, charcoal lighter, liquefied petroleum gas or propane on a balcony.

 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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