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In this article, the fire investigators at Robson Forensic discuss the all too common relationship between barbecue grills and structure fires and burn injuries. They also share advice on grilling safely.

Barbecue Grill Fires & Explosions

On average, the National Fire Protection Association reports 8,800 home fires each year that involve grills, hibachis, or barbecues; in fact, one out of every six residential structure fires involves a grill as the ignition source. Our experts are frequently retained to investigate these incidents and over the years have identified a variety of causes for these fires, including failed grill components, defective grill design, defective propane cylinders, improper assembly or maintenance, and user error.

The consequences of these mishaps can be serious. In addition to the property damage associated with the nearly 9,000 annually reported home fires, there are thousands of emergency room visits and multiple deaths each year associated with burn injuries and carbon monoxide exposure.

July is the leading month for grill related fires and with summer just around the corner, our fire investigators felt it prudent to share some important tips for grilling safety.

Grill Safety Tips:

  • Barbecue grills are designed for outdoor use only. Never barbecue in your home, trailer, tent, garage, or any enclosed area. Deadly carbon monoxide can quickly build-up.
  • When setting up your grill outside, place it in an open area that is away from buildings, overhead combustible surfaces, deck railings, out from under eaves, and dry leaves, or overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave a lit grill unattended.
  • Keep the grill stable, and be sure it cannot tip over.
  • Never move a hot grill.
  • Always refer to the Owner’s Manual for proper instruction and warnings.

Propane Grills:

  • Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, close the valve on the gas tank and turn the grill to the off position.
    • If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
    • If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, turn off the gas and immediately move away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.

Charcoal Grills:

  • Hot coals are commonly associated with fires and burns. To reduce these risks wait until coals have cooled completely before removing them from the barbecue and dispose only in suitable metal containers.
  • Charcoal chimney starters and electric charcoal starters are two alternatives to traditional charcoal starter fluids, but are not without risks. Both options will be very hot after use and care must be taken to keep them away from children, pets, and flammable objects.
  • Charcoal starter fluid can be used safely, but should never be applied to a lit fire. Starter fluids must be kept out of reach of children and away from heat sources. Other liquid fuels (gasoline, kerosene, etc.) must never be used with barbecue grills.

Grill Fire/Explosion Expert Investigations:

The certified fire investigators at Robson Forensic have the necessary training, education, and experience to perform a thorough and efficient origin and cause investigation. In complex situations our investigators have immediate access to our engineers, architects, and scientists, should our clients choose to advance an investigation into a relevant technical field.

 

Featured Expert

Timothy M. Wilhelm, C.F.E.I., C.V.F.I.

Fire Origin & Cause Expert

As an expert in fire investigations and fire department operations, Tim brings more than thirty years of experience with the City of Erie Fire Department, nearly twenty seven years as a firefighter and another six years as Fire Inspector and Fire Prevention Specialist for the City of Erie. He conducts investigations to locate origin and make initial determination of cause. He also provides technical support to resolve questions related to fire department operations and personnel.