For many of us, Memorial Day weekend represents the unofficial kick-off to summer, often including lots of outdoor celebrations, cookouts, and grilling. As the holiday and summer months near, follow grilling information, safety tips, and recommendations from NFPA to help lower the risk of grilling fires and associated hazards.
NFPA data shows that U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 10,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues. This includes 4,900 structure fires and 5,700 outside or unclassified fires, resulting in 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $149 million in direct property damage.
The peak months for grilling fires are July (18 percent), June (15 percent), May (13 percent), and August (12 percent), though grilling fires occur year-round. Leading causes include failing to clean the grill, the heat source being located too close to combustible materials, leaving equipment unattended, and leaks or breaks in the grill or fuel source.
On average, 19,700 patients went to emergency rooms each year because of injuries involving grills. Nearly half (9,500 or 48 percent) of the injuries were thermal burns, including both burns from fire and from contact with hot objects; 5,200 thermal burns were caused by contact or other non-fire events.
Children under five accounted for an average of 2,000, or 39 percent, of the contact-type burns per year. These burns typically occurred when someone, often a child, bumped into, touched, or fell on the grill, grill part, or hot coals.
NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for enjoying a fire-safe grilling season:
For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use in the months ahead. (Watch NFPA’s video on how to check for leaks.)
Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area.
If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you have or are finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container.
Never leave your grill unattended when in use.