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Fire Up the Grill Without Burning Down the House!

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Summer’s here—it’s prime grilling season! If you are known to your friends as the BBQ pitmaster, the guy at the grill, the one who smokes the best brisket or grills the best ribs, that’s great! You obviously know your way around a grill. Whether you are a champion griller or a novice, go ahead and read these safety tips. You might learn something you did not know.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) periodically conducts studies on home grill fires. Their findings between 2014 and 2018 revealed the following:

  • On average, 10,600 home fires are started by grills each year.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, an average of 19,700 people went to the ER with injuries involving grills.
  • 64% of U.S. households own at least one outdoor BBQ grill or smoker, and 61% own a gas grill.
  • Gas grills were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires.
  • Charcoal grills were involved in an average of 1,300 home fires.

Careful How You Fuel the Fire

Charcoal grills give that great smoky flavor to meats that so many people love. If charcoal is your preferred grilling method, stack the charcoal in a cone shape, then douse the coals with charcoal lighter fluid. A good rule of thumb is to use ¼ cup of the fluid for each pound of charcoal. Pour most of the fluid in the center of the coals rather than the edges, and let it sit on the coals for about 30 seconds before lighting it with a long match or long-handled lighter. Never add starter fluid to coals that are already burning--this is a serious fire hazard! When the coals have burned until they are white, spread them out then put your food on the grill.

If you are using a gas grill, make sure the propane tank is properly connected to the grill and is not leaking. Make sure the burners are all turned off and the grill lid is open, then open the propane valve to get the gas flowing. Next, push the ignition button once or twice and turn on the burner that is closest to that button. Hold the flame close to the gas flow around the burner to light it. Repeat this process for each burner you will use.

Other Tips

Although most of us know that grilling should be done outside, it's important to consider where you place your grill. Decks are generally made of wood or composite material, both of which are combustible, so it's not a good idea to use a grill on your deck. In addition, you shouldn't keep the grill too close to your house; particularly if you have vinyl siding that can melt. The best place is your driveway or a back patio, but not too close to the house.

Other grilling safety tips:

  • Clean the grill before each use to remove buildup of ash and grease from the grill and the tray below it. In the NFPA study of home grill fires, the grill had not been cleaned in 29% of the cases.
  • Keep the grill stable
  • Never leave a hot grill unattended
  • Keep kids and pets away from a hot grill
  • Don't wear loose clothing that could hang down in the flames and catch fire
  • Use utensils that have long handles
  • Let coals cool completely before you dispose of them
  • Dispose of coals in a metal container

A grill fire can ruin an otherwise perfect picnic or BBQ, but remembering these safety tips can make for a great day of grilling.


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