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Safe Grilling Tips from the National Fire Protection Association

Often considered the unofficial kick-off to summer, Memorial Day weekend typically includes lots of celebrations and cookouts, often with grilling as a focal point. As the holiday, and summer months, grow closer, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds everyone of basic safety tips to grill and celebrate safely.

Fire departments responded to an average of 10,600 home fires annually involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues according to NFPA’s research from 2014-2018. This includes 4,900 structure fires and 5,700 outside or unclassified fires. These fires resulted in an annual average of 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 grill fires occur year-round. Leading causes of grill fires 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.

“As grilling season approaches, it is important to review basic safety tips especially if the grill hasn’t been used over the winter,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “Establishing a firesafe location for using your grill is also crucial, to make sure it is a safe distance from your home and other items that can burn.”

A yearly average of 19,700 patients per year went to emergency rooms 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 per year were caused by such 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.
  • 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.

The National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. The association began its work to solve the fire problem in a young, industrialized nation in 1896 and has since become a global force known for advancing safety worldwide. NFPA delivers information and knowledge through more than 325 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy, and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. NFPA will formally celebrate its 125th anniversary at its Conference & Expo in Boston on June 6 – 9, 2022. For more information or to view NFPA codes and standards for free, visit www.nfpa.org.