Today at the Landings: 68 °F

Chatham Emergency Services Update

By Carey Ruppert - cruppert@chathames.org
Chief, Skidaway Division

Backyard Grill Safety Tips

During the summertime, grilling with your friends and family seems like the perfect All-American pastime. And why not? It’s fast, easy, and the food tastes great. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, outdoor grilling (with both gas and charcoal) 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 a bad grilling experience.

As with a fire pit, your grill should be placed on level ground, away from any structure and building overhangs. Your grill also should be kept away from wooden deck railings and overhanging branches. If your grill is located on a wooden or composite deck, consider using a fire-resistant grill pad to protect your deck surface. We also recommend that you always 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 fully 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 natural gas or propane, after each use, in addition to turning your grill off at the control panel, you should also turn off the gas at the fuel source. For propane grills, that means turn the propane tank valve to the off position, and for natural gas grills, turn 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 fuel. If you chose to use a starter fluid, use only charcoal fluid. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other highly volatile fluids. Never add starter fluid to an already lit fire, including coals that are hot or warm. After use, allow coals to burn out completely, and let ashes cool at least 48 hours before disposing of them.

Finally, the best way to prevent a grill fire is to periodically clean the cooking surface, grease traps, and inside of the grill. Otherwise, grease can accumulate in these areas and liquefy when heated. Once this excess grease has liquefied, it can ignite into a dangerous fire.

If you experience a grease fire on your gas grill and you can safely reach the control panel or shut off valve, turn off the gas. If the flames are not endangering a structure, leave the lid open and let grease burn off. Never use water on a grease fire. Water could spread the fire rather than put it out. On a charcoal grill, close the lid and all air vents to starve the fire of oxygen. On either type of grill, never try to move flaming material off the grill.

If these actions don’t quickly tame the flames, or if there is an increase in intensity, use your dry chemical fire extinguisher and call us (912-598-4468).