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In a pickle: How to prevent a grill fire

Katherine Martinelli is an internationally published food and travel writer and photographer who contributes regularly to publications on three continents. She recently released her first cookbook, Puff Pastry at Brunch: 10 Sweet and Sa...

Summer grilling safety

Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer grilling season, which lasts through Labor Day. With it come burgers and family get-togethers, but also safety hazards. Before you turn on the grill, protect your family and home with these simple tips.
Man on grill

Don't let easily avoidable safety hazards get in the way of your summer fun. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a global safety science company, recommends that families follow simple grilling safety guidelines to prevent a tragedy from occurring.

Can grills really start fires?

Whether you use a charcoal or gas grill, at home or at a campsite, there's nothing that screams summer like cooking food outdoors with a beer (or mocktail!) in hand. But according to the National Fire Protection Agency, between 2005–2009, fire departments across the U.S. responded to 8,200 home fires per year that were the result of grills, barbecues, or hibachis.

Make sure your kitchen is safe from fires too with these 10 tips >>

grillWhat can cause a grill fire?

Most of these fires involved a gas grill. UL says that the leading contributor in these gas grill fires is typically a leak or break in hoses. Charcoal grill fires, on the other hand, are more often caused when something flammable is placed too close to the grill.

How can I be sure my grill is safe?

UL's top tips include:

  • Position the grill a safe distance from your house or any building.
  • Check your gas grill for leaks.
  • Never start a gas grill with the lid closed.
  • Always have a spray bottle and a fire extinguisher handy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests:

  • Propane and charcoal grills must only be used outdoors.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic. Grills should be positioned at least 10 feet away from siding, deck railing, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area: Declare a three-foot "kid-free zone" around the grill.
  • Use long barbeque mitts and long-handled grilling tools to protect the chef from heat and flames when cooking.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Make sure your food is as safe as your grill with these tips >>

What should I do if there is a grill fire?

If your grill catches fire, immediately close the lid, which should help to suffocate the flames. If it's a gas grill and you are able, then turn off the gas and, if possible, the gas tank. If the flames are serious, try to put them out with a fire extinguisher while someone calls the fire department ASAP. Better to be safe than sorry!

In another pickle? Find more solutions to common kitchen problems >>

More summer safety tips

7 Summer food safety tips
More grilling safety tips
Childproofing tips for summer activities

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