It's BBQ Season, Prime Time for Grill Fires
If you're not careful, your grilling season could go up in flames, an expert warns.
Each year, U.S. fire departments respond to about 5,700 residential barbecue fires, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's U.S. Fire Administration. Those fires result in thousands of emergency department visits and $37 million in damages a year.
"The best way to prevent damages and injuries when grilling is to maintain your equipment," said Diane Reinhold, a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator and registered dietitian.
Gas grills have a higher fire risk than charcoal because of leaks or breaks in parts. Do a safety check of your gas grill each year and also every time the cylinder, hose or regulator is disconnected.
Leaks can be caused by improperly sealed connections, cracked or split hoses, or damage from wildlife. Another potential problem is the regulator connection getting clogged.
To inspect your gas grill, mix a 50/50 solution of dish soap and water. After installing a gas cylinder, turn all controls to the off position. Open the gas cylinder by turning the valve one rotation to the left. Then, lightly apply the soap/water mixture to the hose and other gas connections. If you see soapy bubbles form, there is a gas leak, Reinhold said.
Turn off the gas and check connections to see if they need to be tightened, then do another soap test. If there is still a leak, have the grill serviced by a professional.
The leading cause of gas grill fires is a dirty grill, Reinhold said. Flames from accumulated grease and fat can cause the grill to overheat and could melt plastic dials and flexible hoses, warp metal and crack ceramics.
"Contrary to popular belief that a seasoned grill provides the most flavor, it is crucial to clean grates, burners, side tables and the grease trap," Reinhold said in a university news release.
The National Fire Protection Association has more on grilling safety.
SOURCE: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, news release, July 11, 2021