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BBQ Safety to Prevent Grill Fires

Fire Damage
Author: ServiceMaster Restore

When the weather gets warmer, it’s always fun to gather with friends and family for an outdoor cookout. After all, nothing spells spring or summer like the smell of burgers, steaks, hot dogs and chopped veggies fresh off the grill – until something starts burning, that is.

While gas and charcoal grills are an easy way to cook up large amounts of delicious food, they can also pose a fire danger to your property and family. By following a few simple BBQ safety tips, you can prevent injury while keeping your home and surrounding property safe. Learn the most important grill safety tips from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore® to keep your property out of harm’s way the next time you smoke, sizzle or sauté outside.

Grill Safety

Whatever kind of grill you use, a gas grill, charcoal grill or fire pit grill, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce your risk of fire or injury. Here are some basic grilling safety tips to follow:

  • Set your grill up a safe distance away from structures and overhangs, including your main building, shed, garage, trees, and other potentially flammable objects.
  • Never use your grill inside, in a tent or under an outdoor awning or carport. Doing so can pose a serious fire hazard and potentially cause carbon monoxide poisoning if you’re using a gas grill.
  • Light your gas or charcoal grill using special long-length lighters or long matches to avoid getting burned. Keep all ignition sources out of the reach of children.
  • Never leave an actively burning grill unattended and let your grill fully cool before you cover or store it.
  • Clean your grill thoroughly and often to reduce flammable buildup inside.

Charcoal Grill Safety

Many people swear by the taste of food cooked on a classic charcoal grill. This popular way of cooking is fun, but it also poses unique fire risks of its own. Keep these important BBQ safety tips in mind if you own or use a charcoal grill:

  • Only add enough charcoal to cover the bottom of the grill. Don’t pile too much inside since it could cause ashes and sparks to become airborne, possibly catching nearby objects or even your home on fire.
  • Store extra charcoal in a secure place away from other potential fire hazards, and preferably in an airtight metal container.
  • Only use starter fluid specifically designed for charcoal. Apply it to cold coals only, and don’t add extra fluid once the grill is lit. Otherwise, the flames could get too high, resulting in possible burns or an uncontained fire.
  • Empty your used ashes only when they have fully cooled. Never store or dispose of them in a garbage can or leave them on a deck. Even when cooled, ashes can still cause a fire. It’s best to dump them on garden soil or contain them in a metal receptacle for proper disposal.

Prevent Grill Fires

Gas grills are convenient and easy to use and require less refueling than charcoal grills. But gas grills are also susceptible to fire risks, so it’s important to be aware of how to properly operate your gas grill. Remember these safety tips if you own a gas grill:

  • Open the lid before lighting the grill. This allows oxygen to escape and reduces the risk of fire or even explosion.
  • Check your grill’s gas line and tank fittings regularly for leaks. You can do this by brushing soapy water around these areas. If you see bubbles emerge, there could be a leak somewhere. Replace any damaged/leaking parts and make any other needed repairs before using the grill.
  • If you have spare gas cylinders, never store them under a stairway or the eaves of your home. Place them upright and outside, away from any structures to minimize fire risks. Turn off your grill using the controls first, then close off the gas line at the tank. This helps to ensure any excess gas can escape safely.

More Outdoor Summer Fire Safety Facts and Tips

With its warm nights and relaxing atmosphere, summer is the best time for cooking outside. Unfortunately, it's also peak season for grill fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 17 percent of grill fires happen in July, trailed by 14 percent in May and June, and 13 percent in August. This doesn't include fire pits, either. The NFPA states that outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are responsible for 3,700 grass and brush fires each year.

Whether you're entertaining guests around a fire pit or grilling your family's dinner over an outdoor fireplace, it's integral that you fully understand where to set up your fire, how to use it and how to keep everyone safe. Read these helpful tips on outdoor grill and fire pit safety from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore®.

Build Your Fire Pit Away From Buildings

The number one rule of grilling safety is to keep your fire away from surrounding homes, buildings, trees, and other items that could catch fire. If the flames accidentally get too high or otherwise escape your fire pit, you don't want to put yourself, your kids, your pets, or your guests at risk. Avoid any accidents by setting up your fire pit in a wide, open space that's away from flammable materials.

Never Use Gasoline Or Lighter Fluid

Gasoline and lighter fluid may yield immediate results, but they're dangerous additions to your fire pit. One spill outside the pit and you could soon have an uncontrollable fire roaring across the property. Furthermore, adding accelerants onto an already burning fire can cause explosions. To keep yourself safe, use dry wood as kindling for a steady, controlled burn.

Keep Your Distance From The Flames

Everyone needs to stay a safe distance away from the fire pit at all times. Pay extra attention to the whereabouts of children, pets and guests who have been drinking. To help prevent any accidents, we recommend keeping your fire pit at least 10 feet from flammable objects. Leave enough room for guests to walk around the flames or sit comfortably and safely away from the immediate vicinity.

Put Up A Fire Screen Or Cover

To enhance your outdoor fire safety, consider setting up a screen or cover around your grill. Without one, stray sparks can exit your fire pit, potentially injuring guests or causing fires. These protective barriers are often affordable and available for purchase at your local home hardware store.

Have A Bucket Of Water Or A Hose Nearby

When using an open flame, it's important to have an emergency plan in place, just in case the unexpected happens. Keep a bucket of water, a garden hose, or a fire extinguisher close by, so you can respond immediately to any potential hazards. Should the fire become uncontrollable, evacuate the property, and call emergency services right away.

Overall, outdoor dinners and nights spent around the fire are an irreplaceable part of summer. By following ServiceMaster Restore's fire pit safety tips, you can help keep your summer full of happy, care-free memories.

If you happen to experience a fire during BBQ season, the professionals at ServiceMaster Restore® are always available to help. We hope you never need to make that call but if you do, we’re available 24/7/365 to assist you.

Read about our professional fire restoration services or call 1-800-RESPOND to learn more.

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