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Grill fires happening ahead of Labor Day

Posted at 11:21 PM, Sep 03, 2017

Labor Day means a last chance for summer cookouts for many.

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue want to make sure you avoid a fire from a BBQ gone wrong.

The fire department has already responded to a couple of fires this weekend, ahead of Labor Day.

  • 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.

Information from NFPA.org

"The BBQ was just too close to the building," said Tim Szymanski with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue.

He reminds us to keep our grills at least 10 feet away from buildings. He also says you should shut off your propane tank as well as the burners when you're done so it takes the pressure off the hose line. Szymanski has seen lines that burst because they were reignited by the hot grill and caught the back of the house on fire.

Back in June, four people were badly injured after a community grill exploded at an apartment complex in south Las Vegas. One woman had 18 stitches while another had reconstructive surgery.

The fire department hopes to avoid responding to something like that this Labor Day.

Grill safety tips from ABC News and Underwriters Laboratories.

Do:

1. Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from your house. Farther is even better. This includes portions attached to your house like carports, garages and porches. Grills should not be used underneath wooden overhangs either, as the fire could flare up into the structure above. This applies to both charcoal and gas grills.

2. Clean your grill regularly. If you allow grease and fat to build up on your grill, they provide more fuel for a fire. Grease is a major source of flare ups.

3. Check for gas leaks. You can make sure no gas is leaking from your gas grill by making a solution of half liquid dish soap and half water and rubbing it on the hoses and connections. Then, turn the gas on (with the grill lid open.) If the soap forms large bubbles, that's a sign that the hoses have tiny holes or that the connections are not tight enough.

4. Keep decorations away from your grill. Decorations like hanging baskets, pillows and umbrellas look pretty AND provide fuel for a fire. To make matters worse, today's decor is mostly made of artificial fibers that burn fast and hot, making this tip even more important.

5. Keep a spray bottle of water handy. That way, if you have a minor flare-up you can spray it with the water to instantly calm it. The bonus of this tip is that water won't harm your food, so dinner won't be ruined!

6. Keep a fire extinguisher within a couple steps of your grill. And KNOW HOW TO USE IT. If you are unsure how to use the extinguisher, don't waste time fiddling with it before calling 911. Firefighters say many fire deaths occur when people try to fight a fire themselves instead of calling for expert help and letting the fire department do its job.

Don't:

7. Turn on the gas while your grill lid is closed. NEVER do this. It causes gas to build up inside your grill, and when you do light it and open it, a fireball can explode in your face. Click here to see our demonstration.

8. Leave a grill unattended. Fires double in size every minute. Plan ahead so that all of your other food prep chores are done and you can focus on grilling.

9. Overload your grill with food. This applies especially fatty meats. The basic reason for this tip is that if too much fat drips on the flames at once, it can cause a large flare-up that could light nearby things on fire.

10. Use a grill indoors. People often think it will be safe to use a grill, especially a small one, indoors. NOT TRUE. In addition to the fire hazard, grills release carbon monoxide, the deadly colorless, odorless gas. That gas needs to vent in fresh air or it can kill you, your family and pets.