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Grilling safety tips for propane, charcoal and gas grills

Nothing says summer time like eating burgers, sausages and grilling right off the grill. There is something about cooking your food over an open flame that seems to make everything taste better. But it has a notable risk: house fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), grills cause more than 10,000 house fires each year on average – resulting in $ 149 million in property damage. (That's why it helps to have the right homeowners insurance.)

To help you stay safe during your next cookout, we've compiled a list of important barbecue safety tips:

Grill Placement

  • Keep it off. Propane and charcoal grills should always be used outdoors. Even a large open space, like a garage, is an unsafe place to cook. In addition to the fire risk, poorly ventilated areas can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. It is not recommended to grill on a wooden deck (for example, those on apartment balconies), as wood is combustible and can easily catch fire.
  • Find an even place. Only use the grill on a flat, level surface. Using your grill on a slope can cause it to roll or roll over. Avoid placing your grill near your home and deck railings, or under eaves and awnings. The heat generated by your grill can melt the vinyl siding or even start a fire.
  • Look closely. Never leave your grill unattended. And make sure to keep children and pets at a safe distance at all times.
  • Do not move a lit grill. When your grill is on, do not attempt to move it to another location. Moving a lighted grill risks burning yourself or others. The movement can also release a burner tube or other important component.

Gas grill safety: Propane grills and natural gas grills

  • Check for leaks. At the beginning of the season, perform a thorough inspection to ensure that there are no gas leaks. You can do this by using a soapy water solution on your gasoline tank and hose connections. If you see bubbles rise from any connection points or smell gas, turn off the grill and get that service before using it.
  • Watch out for rust. Over time, rust can begin to form on critical grill components such as burners and propane tanks. If any of these parts are heavily toasted, replace them. Outer grill on grill grates can usually be removed with careful cleaning ̵
    1; just make sure it is gone before you start cooking.
  • Open the lid. When lighting your gas grill, make sure the lid is open. Keeping the lid closed can allow gas to be built into the grill, which can lead to a flash fall.
  • Keep your distance. When lighting your burners, do not lean over the grill. If you cannot get a burner to light, turn off the grill and wait at least five minutes. Then try again.
  • Turn off the gas. When you're ready to cook, remember to turn off propane – at the grill and the tank turns off. This is especially important for direct natural gas grills which have an endless fuel supply. If you ever smell gas after the grill is turned off, call your local fire department.

Charcoal Grill Safety

  • Gently light the ignition fluid. If you use lighter fluid to start your charcoal, just use a liquid made to start grills. Allow the carbon to soak up the liquid before igniting. And never use gasoline or other flammable liquids – it can cause an explosion.
  • Do not add lighter fluid. Once you have lit your charcoal, adding more lighter fluid is a major fire risk. When you're done, be sure to cover your lighter fluid. If you use instant light charcoal, avoid the temptation to add more lighter fluid to the briquettes.
  • Think of a safer fire starter. There are several alternatives to lighter fluid that offer a safer way to start your grill. This includes metal chimneys, which use the newspaper as a fire source, and solid fireplaces made of flammable wax or wood. Electric starts also work well – but do not use one in wet weather.
  • Check your valves. Coal grills need oxygen to burn. So keep your openings open as you cook, and close them to extinguish the flame.
  • Let it cool. When you're ready to cook, give your grill enough time to cool completely before covering it. This is also important for gas grills. But charcoal grills take much longer to cool down because you can't just "turn off" the fire inside.
  • Discard coal and ash safely. Hot coal and ash can become a major fire risk if thrown too soon. Before cleaning your ash and charcoal, allow it to cool for 48 hours. If you need to clean your grill sooner, wrap the box in aluminum foil and soak it with water. Then discard them in a non-combustible container.


  • Never use water. If your barbecue catches fire, your first instinct may be to inject it with the hose. Bad idea! Barbecue fires are basically the same as a greased fire in your kitchen. And since oil and water are not mixed, the use of water to extinguish the flames will only lead to an explosion of burning fat.
  • Use a fire extinguisher. The best way to extinguish a grill fire is through using a multifunction extinguisher . It's smart to have one nearby – and know how to use it – just in case. Make sure it has also been tested and inspected recently.
  • Fight the flame. If you do not have a fire extinguisher on hand, the flame is suffocated by turning off the oxygen supply. You can do this by closing the lid and grill valves. Spreading baking soda on the flame can also help remove it.

Barbecue Storage and Maintenance

  • Clean the drip washers. Most barbecue fires can be prevented with little maintenance. If your grill has a drip pan or tray, you can get used to regularly cleaning the grease, grease and oil that accumulates there. And brush off your barbecue grills every time you're ready to cook. It's a messy job, but it will prevent fires by removing the fuel that is burned while helping to prevent your grill from rusting.
  • Use a lid. Most grills are designed to be stored outdoors all year round. But using a weatherproof cover will help keep dirt and moisture out during wet and snowy weather.
  • Store propane safely. When your grill will be out of use for an extended period of time, it is best to disconnect the propane container completely. If you decide to store your grill indoors for the winter, be sure to leave the gas tank outside. Propane should never be stored indoors – even in a shed or garage.

What to do in an emergency

  • Use a safe and reliable method to try to stop the fire. Use a multi-purpose fire extinguisher and try to extinguish the flames as quickly as possible.
  • Call 911. If you cannot extinguish the fire, call immediately for help. House fires spread quickly, so the faster you get professional help, the less damage it will do.
  • Treat any damage. Every year, nearly 20,000 people visit an emergency room because of grill-related injuries. For minor burns, run cold water over the area, cover it with a sterile non-adhesive bandage and take a non-countertop detergent. For more serious injuries, contact a physician immediately.
  • Assess the property damage. After the fire is out and any damage has been dealt with, evaluate how much your property has been damaged. Take photos to document the damage and consult your home inventory for any lost property. Your Erie Insurance agent can help you decide whether to file an insurance claim and guide you through the claims process if you do.

Protect What Matters Most

As a homeowner, you can take steps to ensure that both your house and your family are well protected. In addition to following these barbecue safety tips, make sure you also have the right home insurance . For a fast, free coverage check, contact an ERIE agent in your area today.

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