“I can’t recall any local grill fires during the past year, but that’s not to say it can’t happen,” Pell City Fire Chief Patrick Draper said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2005-2009 fire departments in the United States responded to an average 8,200 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbecues per year, including an average of 3,400 structure fires and 4,800 outside fires.
Those fires resulted in an annual average of 15 civilian deaths, 120 reported civilian injuries and $75 million in direct property damage.
“As summer approaches, the threat of grilling fires is becoming more prevalent,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of communications. “Although grilling fires are more common in warmer months, it is important to remember that grilling fires do occur throughout the entire year and simple steps can be taken to avoid them.”
According to the NFPA, July is the peak month for grill fires, accounting for 18 percent of all home fires involving grills, including both structure and outside fires. June and May follow closely, with 14 percent and 13 percent respectively.
“Grilling during the warmer months, or throughout the year, is a welcome sight at cookouts,” Carli said. “But fire anywhere else can make your kickoff barbecue memorable for all the wrong reasons. By reviewing grilling safety tips this season you can prevent home grilling fires not only as the weather gets nicer, but also all year long.”
Draper said propane and charcoal barbecue grills should only be used outdoors.
“Have a fire extinguisher handy,” he said. “If you have a grill fire, call 911 and get the fire department on the way just in case, then they are already on the way if the fire gets out of control.”
Draper said when using gas grills be sure to know where the gas shutoff valves are.
“The location of your grill is also important,” he said. “A lot of times people may put a grill too close to their house or carport. You don’t want to turn a grill fire into a house fire.”
Draper said the grill owner’s manual often gives advice on how far to place the grill away from structures.
“Be careful about putting a grill too near a tree as well,” he said.
Draper said with charcoal grills, put the lighter fluid on first or buy good-quality charcoal with the fluid in it.
“Once it’s lit, don’t keep adding lighter fluid,” he said. “A change in the wind or a spill can cause a fire.”
Draper said when lighting a propane grill, if it doesn’t catch the first try, turn off the gas and let it dissipate for a couple of minutes before trying to light it again.
He said with both types of grills, be sure to clean the grill and remove grease or fat buildup.
“Keep children and pets away from grills and never leave it unattended,” he said. “The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is usually the start of the summer grilling season for a lot of people. Do it safely and enjoy a good time outdoors.”