Grilling Safety | Shelter Insurance®

Get Fired Up for Grilling Season—Without Burning Down the House!


When Kevin graduated from college, he got an entry level job at a good company, and he got his first apartment. On Labor Day weekend, he had some friends over to grill out on his balcony. The food turned out great and all was well, but overnight the grill blew over when a thunderstorm with high winds rolled through. The coals were still hot enough that they ignited a fire on the wood balcony, which ultimately destroyed the entire building. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but Kevin lost everything—his furniture, his clothes…everything. (To make matters worse, he didn't have renters insurance to help replace his belongings!) Kevin's story perfectly illustrates why most apartment complexes don't allow grilling on their balconies.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

  • In 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8,900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year. This includes structure fires and outside or unclassified fires on home properties.
  • These 8,900 fires caused annual averages of 10 civilian deaths, 160 reported civilian injuries, and $118 million in direct property damage. Almost all the losses resulted from structure fires. 
  • Five out of six (83%) grills involved in home fires were fueled by gas while 13% used charcoal or other solid fuel. 
  • The leading causes of grill fires were a failure to clean, having the grill too close to something that could catch fire and leaving the grill unattended.
  • A leak or break was the leading cause for outside or unclassified grill fires. Leaks or breaks were primarily a problem with gas grills.

Careful How You Fuel the Fire

Propane gas grills accounted for 74% of grill fires from 2009-2013. If you are using a propane grill, you can help avoid this by following a few simple steps:  

  • Make sure the propane tank is properly connected to the grill and is not leaking.
  • Make sure the burners are all turned off and the grill lid is open, then open the propane valve to get the gas flowing.
  • Next, push the ignition button once or twice and turn on the burner that is closest to that button.
  • Hold the flame close to the gas flow around the burner to light it. Repeat this process for each burner you will use.

Of course, be sure to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you are using a charcoal grill, follow these steps to help prevent a fire:

  • Stack the charcoal in a cone shape, then douse the coals with charcoal lighter fluid. A good rule of thumb is to use ¼ cup of the fluid for each pound of charcoal.
  • Pour most of the fluid in the center of the coals rather than the edges, and let it sit on the coals for about 30 seconds before lighting it with a long match or long-handled lighter.
  • Never add starter fluid to coals that are already burning. This is a fire hazard. When the coals have burned until they are white, spread them out, then put your food on the grill.

Other Tips
Although most of us know that grilling should be done outside, it's important to consider where you place your grill. Decks are generally made of wood, and for reasons like the one above, it's not a good idea to have a grill on your deck. In addition, you shouldn't keep the grill too close to your house; particularly if you have vinyl siding that can melt.

Other grilling safety tips:

  • Clean the grill before each use to remove buildup of ash and grease from the grill and the tray below it.
  • Keep the grill stable.
  • Never leave a hot grill unattended.
  • Keep kids and pets away from a hot grill.
  • Don't wear loose clothing that could hang down in the flames and catch fire.
  • Use utensils that have long handles.
  • Let coals cool completely before you dispose of them.
  • Dispose of coals in a metal container.

Don't let a grill fire spoil an otherwise perfect picnic or gathering. Remember these safety tips for a great day of grilling.

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