Chatham Emergency Services Update
The Lurking Demon in Your Backyard Grill
For this month’s article, I will discuss the second of the Three Fiery Demons of our everyday life -- outdoor grills. As the weather gets warmer, more people use outdoor grills to prepare their food. And why not? It’s fast and easy, and the food tastes great. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, outdoor grilling (with both gas and charcoal grills) causes, on average, more than 8,900 home fires every year. Regardless of the type of grill you own, here are a few tips that can help protect you and your home from this fiery demon.
As with a fire pit, your grill should be placed on level ground well away from any structure and building overhangs. Your grill also should be kept away from deck railings and overhanging branches. If your grill is going to be located on a deck, consider using a fire-resistant grill pad to protect your deck surface. We also recommend you have a dry chemical fire extinguisher handy while grilling.
For Your Gas Grill
After a period of storage or disuse, check your grill for gas leaks, deterioration, and burner obstructions. You also should check for gas leaks every time you change a propane cylinder. To check for leaks, apply a light soap and water solution to the couplings and hose. If you see bubbles, you have a leak. Never use a propane cylinder if it shows signs of dents, gouges, bulges, excessive rust, or other signs of external damage.
When lighting a gas grill, always keep the lid open to prevent a flash off from a gas buildup. If a burner doesn’t ignite, turn off the gas. Keep the grill lid open and wait five minutes before trying to light it again. If your burners go out during operation, turn all burners to the off position, open the lid, and wait five minutes before attempting to relight.
Whether using a natural gas or propane gas grill, after each use, in addition to turning your grill off at the control panel, you also should turn off the gas at the fuel source. For propane grills, that means turning the propane tank valve to the off position, and for natural gas grills, turning the gas supply line shutoff valve to the off position. Although this sounds inconvenient, the few seconds involved in securing the fuel source will prevent most inadvertent gas buildups.
For Your Charcoal Grill
Consider using a charcoal chimney starter with crumpled newspaper as a fuel. If you chose to use a starter fluid, use only charcoal fluid. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other highly volatile fluids. Never add lighter fluid to an already lit fire, including coals that already are hot or warm. After use, allow coals to burn out completely and let ashes cool at least 48 hours before disposal.
Finally, despite adamant claims from a significant portion of the population, cleaning your grill grates of built-up grease, old marinades, and bastes does not destroy the flavor of your grilled food. Consistent cleaning of the cooking surface, grease traps, and the inside of the grill greatly decreases the risk of flare-ups and grill fires.
If preventative measures and prudent grill operation fail, never try to move flaming material off the grill. Turn off the burners and extinguish it in place. If all else fails, call Chatham Emergency Services (912-355-6688).