A couple of years ago, my sister had a fire at her house. How did it happen? My brother-in-law was smoking meat on their deck for a few hours. Unbeknownst to him because he was inside, a few sparks from the smoker escaped, and carried by the wind, lit an evergreen tree next to the house and started the siding on fire.
What is really funny now, is that my sister didn’t even know that her house was on fire until the fire engines roared down her street with full lights and sirens to stop at her house. A neighbor had seen the fire and called the fire department, assuming no one was home because she didn’t see anyone trying to put out the fire.
Thankfully, no one was hurt and there was no interior damage to my sister’s home, so the story remains funny. But the siding on her house was ruined and had to be replaced.
What happened to my sister’s home isn’t that unusual.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) reports an estimated 2,050 fires from grills occur each year across the country. According to FEMA, grill fires result in an average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and over $37 million in property loss each year. House fires can happen almost any time from any source, but house fires started by grills (and/or smokers) occur most often from the months of May through August, with the peak in July – and as you would expect from 5 to 8 pm – just when folks are cooking up their favorite dinner.
Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t as lucky as my sister and her husband. The saddest part? Most house fires started by grills can be prevented with these few grill safety tips:
- 1. The leading cause of grill fires (and/or explosions!) is “mechanical failure or malfunction.” Within this category are leaks and breaks that occur in the tanks or the lines on gas grills. Solution: make sure you check your equipment thoroughly before firing it up!
(Tip: The easiest way to check for gas leaks is to fill a spray bottle with water add a little liquid soap – dish detergent or shampoo will do – and spray it all over the tank and lines. If there is a leak, the liquid will bubble as the gas escapes from the line or tank.)
2. The second most common cause of house fires from grills seems to be the most obvious: the grill is too close to the home. Solution: move the grill at least 10 feet away from any structure.
3. The third most common cause of house fires from grills: Pouring gasoline or lighter fluid on the coals once they’ve been lit, or adding additional fuel to a lit fire, causing explosions.
4. The fourth most common cause, and the most common sense tip of all: Never leave your grill (or smoker!) unattended.