It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day weekend, for many Virginia residents, represents the start of grilling season. Whether you use gas or charcoal, it is important to keep you and your guests safe this summer with a few common-sense safety precautions.
Every year grills and smokers cause thousands of fires, hundreds of injuries, dozens of deaths, and millions of dollars in damage. Gas grills are the most risky, causing an average of 7,200 home fires a year. Charcoal and other solid fuel grills add another 1,400 fires each year. To avoid becoming part of these statistics, always keep a fire extinguisher handy in the event that the flame gets out of control. Leave plenty of space between the grill and your home, deck railing, or any tree branches. Before using any grill, make sure it is clean and there hasn’t been any grease build-up. Several pounds of grease can accumulate after only a few cookouts. This will also prevent flare-ups while cooking, allowing your food to cook more evenly. Gas Many grillers prefer the even heat and convenience of gas grills over traditional charcoal. Both liquid petroleum and propane, used in gas grills, are highly flammable. More than half of the outdoor home fires involving gas grills are the result of the fuel source catching fire, and every year over 30 people are injured as a result of gas grill explosions.
If your grill has been left idle for a period of time (winter) make sure you perform a safety check before turning it on. 1) Check the tubes that lead to the burner for any blockages using a pipe cleaner or wire. 2) Check grill hoses for cracking, holes, and leaks. 3) Move gas hoses as far as possible from any source of heat. If you can’t move the hose, install a heat shield for protection. 4) Check for gas leaks (use the manufacturer’s instructions). If you detect a leak, do not attempt to light the grill until the leak is repaired. You should never store a gas container on its side, and as with charcoal grills, NEVER use them indoors. Charcoal Charcoal produces carbon monoxide as its burned, a colorless, odorless gas that can reach toxic levels in enclosed areas. Every year about 30 people die and 100 are injured as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal grills and hibachis used indoors. The #1 rule with charcoal is NEVER burn it inside homes, vehicles, tents, or campers, even if ventilation is provided. After you are finished grilling, do not store your grill indoors with freshly used coals. Charcoal is more difficult to light and many people rely on lighter fluid to get the coals going. For a safer method, try using a chimney starter to get your coals started. They last significantly longer than lighter fluid and won’t add any unusual flavor to your food. Once lit, spread the coals evenly to prevent flare-ups and keep a more uniform cooking temperature. If you use lighter fluid, store it a good distance away from the grill. Here’s to a happy – and safe – grilling season!
 National Fire Protection Association Safety Information