Grilling Safety

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Everyone loves firing up the grill and enjoying a good cookout when the weather is nice. When misused, however, grills can pose a significant fire hazard. Each year, gas and charcoal grills cause about 1,500 structure fires and about 4,200 outdoor fires, resulting in a combined direct property loss of $29.8 million nationwide. The use of unapproved grills on apartment and condominium balconies is especially unsafe and illegal. 

By adhering to the pertinent provisions of the fire code and by following some simple fire safety tips, you can help ensure that this year’s grilling season is fun and safe for everyone.

The City of Fairfax Fire Code

The City of Fairfax Fire Prevention Code states explicitly that “no charcoal cooker, brazier, hibachi or grill or any gasoline or other flammable liquid or liquefied petroleum gas-fired stove or similar device shall be ignited or used on the balconies or within 15 feet of any apartment building or other structures with similar occupancy.” In addition, cooking devices using flammable or combustible liquids or liquefied petroleum gas may not be stored inside, on any balcony, or within 15 feet of any apartment building, condominium, or other similar structure. Electric grills provide a safe alternative to charcoal or gas grills and may be used on balconies. In addition, certain pre-piped natural gas grills may be used, provided they are designed or approved for the use of lava rocks or permanent briquettes.

Grilling Safety Tips

Here are some safety tips for a safe and happy grilling season:

  • Grills should be kept away from anything that can burn – your home, garage, car, dry vegetation, etc.; a minimum distance of 15 feet is recommended
  • Propane cylinders should be kept upright and stored away from the home; a back-yard shed is a good place.
  • Never bring a grill inside your home or garage; the carbon monoxide produced by burning charcoal can be dangerous, even deadly, in enclosed spaces
  • Never use gasoline to start a fire – it is much too dangerous to use on grills
  • Use charcoal lighter fluid only before the fire is lit; trying the make a fire bigger by adding more fuel is dangerous and can cause serious injuries
  • Charcoal must be kept dry; wet charcoal can spontaneously ignite when stored in confined areas
  • Keep children and pets away from grills; it only takes a second for curiosity to cause a serious burn
  • Dispose of grill ashes in a safe manner; never place ashes in paper or plastic bags or other combustible containers
  • Soak spent charcoal with water before you discard it and leave the grill away from the house until it is completely cool; coals may retain enough heat to reignite for several days after a fire
  • Finally, keep a garden hose or fire extinguisher handy; call the fire department right away if the fire gets out of control 

For more information about grilling safety, please contact our Life Safety Officer or call 703.385.7830.