Spring is finally here and grilling season is now upon us! I should tell you upfront that this post is brought to you by the Wright’s Great Grill Fire of Easter 2019. MAN!!! Simple burgers on the grill turned into some evening excitement when our relatively new grill went up in flames. Like, engulfed in flames. Scary, big flames. As we calmed down through the evening (while thanking our lucky stars it all turned out ok) I started coming up with ideas in my head for this post about grilling safety and all the tips and tricks needed to have a successful and safe grilling season. So, here you have it! Grilling Safety: All You Need to Know.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there is an average of just under 10,000 home fires per year involving grills. Additionally, there is an average of over 16,000 injuries related to grilling that require emergency room treatment, with one-third of those injuries being children. 9 out of 10 of these grill fires involve
I realize that compared to the total number of people that have grills, the injury and fire statistics are relatively low. However, these injuries and fires are almost 100% preventable if you follow a few simple steps.
If I haven’t scared you from grilling ever again, let’s go over a few basic pieces of information.
IT’S ON FIRE!
First things first. The grill is on fire. What do you do?
Assess – QUICKLY
Firstly, if your propane gas grill is on fire and out of control, and the propane tank is involved, get everyone out of the area and call 911 for help. IMMEDIATELY. Don’t be a hero, that thing can explode at any point in time.
If the fire isn’t huge yet and you can reach the knobs (safely) to turn off the grill burners, do so quickly and back away again.
If you believe it’s a
If you don’t even have food on the grill yet (meaning it’s probably not a grease fire), you can try the water hose to put the flames out. This worked for us, likely because there wasn’t any grease in the mix yet.
When you get the flames put out, and you can safely touch the propane tank, turn it off. If you aren’t certain about turning off the tank or feel unsafe, call for help from the Fire Department.
Never hesitate to call for help. The Fire Department is always happy to help. They would much rather come out for a quick assist than spend the next 5 hours putting the fire out at your house.
What can cause a grill fire?
Now that the fire is safely put out, let’s journey back and touch on the factors that can actually make a
- Fire within the grill’s cook box – This can be from the grease trap, drippings from the grill lid, food, etc. Also, during the winter months, critters can take up a nesting space in the grill as well, giving the flame some fuel in the form of their nests.
- Fire from stuff too close to the grill – The grill can be too close to the house, deck, porch, railings, awnings, etc. Grills have wheels for a reason. Get them a safe distance from anything that could catch flame.
- Leaving the Grill unattended – If you leave the grill unattended it can get way too hot and the grease and food can really catch fire quickly.
These causes plus their most excellent extended explanations from The Travelers Companies (Traveler’s Insurance) post on grill fires can be found here. This article is fascinating and had a whole list of things that had never crossed my mind to worry about or attend to while grilling.
Additionally, keep in mind, the fattier the meat, the more likely the flare ups can be. Also, if you have marinated the meat in oil, the same goes, you are more likely for flare ups on the grill. Be prepared.
We have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. We found out last night it’s not where we (read: I) thought it was. We both thought it was under the kitchen sink, and in my organizing smartness, I had moved it. And while I found it pretty quickly, it wasn’t quick enough if we had truly needed it. That fire extinguisher needs to be exactly where you KNOW it to be and where you can put hands on it quickly. Mine was in the back of the pantry. HOW is that helpful? It’s NOT. Negative smart points for me.
So, now, it’s on top of the cabinet, just inside the back door, right where the grill is. For when we work up the nerve to grill again.
Keep in mind that water is actually not nearly as effective in putting out grease fires. You should keep a few big boxes of baking soda at or near your grill. If it flares up throw the baking soda on the grill. Salt is also supposed to work very well to help smother flames.
Even though water isn’t the best way to put out a grill fire, I would STILL advocate making sure your water hose is hooked up and ready to go if you are going to be grilling any time. That way if an emergency happens, you are ready with water. If you don’t have a water hookup near the grill, I would certainly advocate having a bucket or two of water ready to go. I’m not even kidding. Better safe than sorry for sure.
Here’s a few tips to just avoid the fire all together!
Make sure the grill is far enough away from the house, deck railing, awnings, plants and structures. Grills have wheels for a reason. Wheel them to where you need it to be for a safe margin away from anything that could catch fire.
No Kids Allowed!
Never let the kids be outside while grilling. Just don’t. If you have more than one adult outside that can watch them AND keep them a very safe distance away, then that’s ok. But otherwise? Just no. Grilling is essentially a controlled explosion on a good day when it’s going well. Even before this incident, I’ve always been hypervigilant that the kids aren’t outside while the grill is on or has been on. Keep in mind too that the grill is HOT for a while after cooking. Little guys can get a burn after the fact too.
Keep the Grill Clean
The biggest thing you can do for safety is to keep your grill cleaned and maintained. After some research this morning, here are the things that you should be doing to maintain your propane gas grill:
Wipe it Down
Keep your grill clean. That means the grates, the lid, the inside of the lid, the burners and all the sides of the inside of the flame-lit area (the cook box). This is easy enough to do, it just means taking the time to do it. You can wait for your grill to be completely cool and use paper towels and rags to wipe down all the surfaces.
Burn it Off
You can also burn off any residue by lighting all the burners of the grill and running it on high for 15-20 minutes. You can do this before you grill your food, or just as a cleaning routine apart from actually cooking food. Once you’ve run the grill on high for the twenty minutes, the food debris should turn to ash and should brush right off using your grill brush.
Make sure you clean out or change out your grease trap under the grill. I know we’ve never even given it a second thought that it was down there. Ours are simply aluminum containers you can throw away (WHEN IT IS COMPLETELY COLD) and just replace with a new disposable container.
What caused our grill fire?
We aren’t sure. We have a propane gas grill, and it was engulfed in flames in a matter of minutes. And it wasn’t like we left it completely unattended for an hour either. My husband put the burgers on the grill and walked the ten feet inside the house to exchange the dirty plate for a clean one and walked right back outside to an inflamed grill.
It could have been the grease trap. Maybe a loose connection to the tank. It’s hard to know.
Luckily, my husband was able to quickly hook up the water hose and was able to get it under control (though water would not have been the best or preferred method to try – it was the only option we had at the moment). He lost all the hair on his right forearm and was singed, but was otherwise unharmed. He is traumatized for sure, but otherwise fine. The grill didn’t fare so well, but that’s ok. Grills are replaceable.
Grill Safety Wrap Up
Hopefully I’ve scared you enough to have you go give your grill a once over and make sure it’s properly maintained. But, I also hope I’ve not scared you so much that you’ll never grill again either. As long as you take the proper safety precautions, you should have a successful grilling experience every time.
Grilling in the warm weather is fun and downright delicious! Nothing beats the smell of food on the grill! So, with all this grilling safety information and instructions in mind, you are ready for a warm and happy Spring and Summer grilling season.