Grilling safety is something to keep in mind as the weather warms.
Popular as it is, grilling food comes with risks. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that grilling causes 10,600 home fires annually, with 19,700 people seeking medical treatment as a result. Of those 9,500 injuries, 9,500 are burns.
As a lieutenant in the Fairfax City Fire Department and a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Farm Safety Advisory Committee, Chris Myer says grill placement has been a major cause of fires. It is common to place the grill too close to wood and vinyl siding, which can cause a fire.
“What ultimately happens is if they leave their grill on or the fire gets slightly out of control, the siding starts to melt and will ignite the wood,” he said. “It gets hot and moves quickly.”
According to Myer, vinyl siding contains petroleum, which is flammable. There are many combustible materials in attics, including blown-in insulation.
The occupants won’t even realize their house is on fire if the siding burns and the fire spreads into the roof, Myer warned.
Using the wrong ignition source is another issue faced by rural residents, he said.
“Instead of using lighter fluid, an electric starter or a charcoal chimney starter, people will get gasoline or diesel since it’s readily available on the farm,” Meyer said.
A gas grill causes more fires than its charcoal counterpart, mostly due to gas leaks or breaks, says the NFPA. The smell of gas should be checked out if detected, Meyer said.
Leaks or breaks caused 10% of structure fires caused by gas grills and 22% of outside fires caused by gas grills. (nfpa.org)
To stay safe this grilling season, follow these safety tips from the NFPA:
8 Steps to staying safe grilling this summer
Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors.
Hot grills can burn your house down, poison you with carbon monoxide, or even worse—injure or kill your family members!
Keep a fire extinguisher within reach during the grilling process.
Grilling in your kitchen can be done safely on your stove with the proper venting. But don’t ever bring your gas or charcoal grill inside your home or garage.
Never grill on a balcony
Never grill on a balcony. This might seem innocuous at first, but it can be deadly if you’re not careful!
Never cook food outside near open windows or doors with the wind blowing towards your home – even in light breezes. If there’s any chance of an accident happening and burning something up inside, also make sure to keep grilling utensils away from anything flammable so that they don’t get hot enough to start fires (or worse).
If your only option is to grill on your balcony, please keep a fire extinguisher close by.
Your grill should be placed well away from your home
I wish this point was even necessary to post, but we all push the limits at times. A few years ago, it was grilling for a party in the pouring rain. I didn’t want to get drenched, so I rolled the grill a little too close to the house to stay dry.
I didn’t catch the overhang on fire, but I came very close.
This summer, please keep the grill safe and away from your home to avoid any accidents.
Pay attention, especially to house eaves with open-air vents. The heat and embers from an open grill can quickly light a fire in your attic without you ever knowing it before it’s too late.
Stay mindful of the home and deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the grill area.
Cooking with your family is a great device-free activity.
I so enjoy teaching my son to properly grill meats and vegetables.
It’s so satisfying to see him grow confident in his grilling abilities as he masters the nuances of different meats and flavor profiles.
However, children playing around a lit grill is never a good idea. So many things can go wrong that will ruin a beautiful summer family day.
Keep children and large pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup
I was cooking burgers last week and had a horrible flare-up. Actually, that is what prompted this article.
I was turning over the burgers, and suddenly flames erupted. All of the grease built up in the base of the grill decided at one moment to become a fuel source. The heat was crazy and pushed me back, so I couldn’t even rescue those charred burgers.
Thankfully as I was out on my patio, I was able to grab the garden hose and put it out quickly.
My grill was soaked, and my burgers could now be used as charcoal briquets.
It was past time to clean out my grill and de-grease the entire grill bed under the grates.
I realize it isn’t anyone’s favorite thing to do, but cleaning your grill correctly is an essential step to grilling safely.
Clean your grill before every use, it is a must! The easiest way to do this a quick wipe down with a paper towel to capture the grease from your previous use.
Never leave your grill unattended.
If you need a reason why you should never leave your grill unattended, look at the point above.
Many things can go wrong with a grill when you’re not there to notice them.
Even if it’s just for five minutes, make sure someone else is watching the grill or shut off the gas and cover your food with foil.
Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
Ok, I admit, I have an inner pyro that loves to come out now and then. There is something satisfying about the poof of a gas grill igniting.
But lighting your grill is not the time to indulge in that inner pyro.
Even if you have an electric starter, make sure the lid is open before lighting it so oxygen can flow freely to fuel your grill’s fire and help prevent a dangerous buildup of gas inside the cover.
And be careful not to do this when there are things like leaves or flammable liquids are in the area.
Keep your grill lid up every time you light your grill.
Shut off your grill properly
So, you’ve just grilled up food for your entire cookout? Now, don’t forget to shut down your grill correctly once you are finished. Shut off both the grill burners and the power source – gas or propane. You don’t want to leave those on. At best, you waste gas or propane. At worst, you could create a fire.
And when finished grilling, let things cool down, he stressed.
“People will put their charcoal briquettes that are still hot into a plastic container, a paper bag, or a plastic trash can,” Meyer said. “That’s how a significant amount of fires start on the charcoal grill side.”
Enjoy grilling this summer, but don’t forget to grill safely. Grilling your dinner is a great family time for getting outside and enjoying a beautiful evening.
I want you to stay safe this summer and continue to enjoy really great food.