Every backyard barbecuer dreams of being a grill master. Truth is, not everyone can be a four-time world barbecue champion Mike Mills. Most us are Average Joes just trying not to burn the hot dogs until they’re pitch black and extra crispy. Unfortunately, some barbecuers this season will fall dangerously asleep at the grill.
With Labor Day Cookouts just around the corner, the American Fire Administration is reminding barbecuers of all talent levels that nearly 9,000 U.S. home fires annually involve grills, hibachis or barbecues. When the smoke finally clears, the fallout is severe. The AFA reports home grill fires on average kill 10 civilians, cause 160 injuries and produce $118 million in direct property damage yearly. Almost all losses resulted from structure fires.
Gas-fueled grills are the source of five of six (83 percent) of grill fires, while 13 percent start from charcoal or solid fuel grills.
The leading causes of home grill fires are would-be grill masters snoozing at the flame. Failure to clean grills regularly, placing the grill too close to something that can easily catch fire, a leaking gas grill and leaving the grill unattended are the clear majority of U.S. grill fires that leave much more than the burgers and brats scorched beyond recognition.
“Grilling season is a great time of year for friends and families to have cookouts and tailgate, but before starting the season, be sure your grill is working properly and review safety tips,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). “Propane gas hose leaks or breaks were the leading factors contributing to gas grill fires. It is good practice to check for damage before using it for the first time each year, and to clean and check the entire grill regularly.”
Here are the NFPA’s 3 Guide Rules of Home Grill Safety:
- Stay alert when grilling. Do not grill if you are sleepy or when you are drinking alcohol.
- Don’t leave your cooking/grill area unattended.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area. Remove flammable materials from around the grill.
Most importantly: Know how to use and operate your grill safely.
Popular ESPN sportscaster Hannah Storm knows firsthand how a home grill fire can strike out nowhere. Storm was severely burned several years ago when a rush of wind redirected the flame of her propane gas grill straight at her without warning as she prepared dinner for her family.
“The force of the blow is something I don’t remember,” said Storm, who works with the NFPA to educate Americans on grill safety. “The first thing I do remember is looking down and seeing myself on fire.”
The fire left Storm with first degree burns on her face and hands, second degree burns on her chest and lifelong painful daily reminders about the severe dangers of inattentive grilling.
“I didn’t read my home grilling instructions,” Storm said. “The first thing I should have done is sit down and read this: How do you operate this?
“Busy life. Don’t bother doing it? Look what happened. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else ever. If I can make anyone think twice when they’re grilling, I can’t bear the thought of anyone going through this unnecessarily. I just can’t bear it.”