Grilling Season Heats Up

Friday, May 7, 2010 - 3:54am

Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner, but grilling season is already well under way.

The season brings with it specific hazards outlined in a new report from The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) United States Fire Administration (USFA).

Based on data collected between 2006 and 2008 rom the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), the report, Grill Fires on Residential Properties paints a consistent portrait of fires caused by grills, hibachis, and barbecues.

According to the report, an estimated 5,700 grill fires on residential properties occur annually in the United States, resulting in an estimated average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in property loss. More than half (57 percent) of grill fires on residential properties occur in the four months of May, June, July, and August and almost half (49 percent) of these fires occur during the hours of 5 to 8 p.m.

The majority of the fires start on patios, terraces, porches (both screened-in and unenclosed), exterior balconies and courtyards, while an additional 24 percent start on and unenclosed porches.

Grills with propane as the power source cause a whopping 69 percent of all grill fires on residential properties.

The City of Madison Fire Department is working with rental property owners to provide additional information regarding the safe use and storage of grills.

Use Barbecue Grills Safely
•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 by declaring a 3-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
•Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when cooking food.
•Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.
•Use only outdoors! If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, barbecue grills pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to carbon monoxide.

Charcoal Grills
•Purchase the proper starter fluid and store out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
•Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.

Propane Grills
•Check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will reveal escaping propane quickly by releasing bubbles.
•If you determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame:
1) Turn off the propane tank and grill.
2) If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
3) If the leak does not stop, call 911.
•If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call 911. Do not attempt to move the grill.
•All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
•Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
•Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

  • Lori Wirth, (608) 266-5947