North Shore Fire Department's Grilling Safety Tips

Aug. 24, 2009

Grilling Safety


In 1999, gas and charcoal grills caused 1,500 structure fires and 4,200 outdoor fires in or on home properties, resulting in a combined direct property loss of $29.8 million.


The following safety tips will help you and your family enjoy a safe, memorable grilling season …


Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.


Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.


Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three-foot “safe zone” around the grill.


Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping burgers.


Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.


Grill should be positioned 10 ft from roadway and building/house structures.


Do not grill underneath tarps or tents.


Gas Grills


Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles. If you determine your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame:


Turn off the gas tank and grill.


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, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.


All gas cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of gas before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.


Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.


Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.


When using a gas cylinder larger than 20 lbs chain it to something stable to prevent it from tipping over.


Charcoal Grilling


If you are using fluid to start a charcoal grill, use only fluid intended for this purpose. It is extremely dangerous to substitute any other combustible liquid to start the coals. This is especially true for gasoline, which can be ignited explosively by even a tiny spark.


Apply starter fluid directly to the coals, then reseal and put away the can. Light the coals carefully, avoiding the flame flare-up. Store the can out of reach of children and away from heat sources.


When you’ve finished cooking, keep an eye on the grill until it has completely cooled. Charcoal can be soaked with water to speed the cooling process, but use extreme caution to avoid the steam and splatters, which can cause burns.


Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.


Grilling on decks and patios poses a fire hazard. 2009 edition of NFPA 1 applies to and is enforced in the North Shore Communities:


10.11.6 For other than one- and two-family dwellings, no hibachi, grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose shall be used or kindled on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 ft (3 m) of any structure.


Please contact the North Shore Fire Department Public Education Office at 414-228-0292, should you have any questions.


Please our website for additional fire and life safety information at


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