Grill power: How to grill safely through the summer

Lots of us will be grilling this weekend, maybe for the first time this summer. Loudoun County, Virginia’s fire chief is offering some safety tips to keep the focus on the tasty food — and prevent a fire or trip to the emergency room.

“Above all, keep that grill at least 15 feet away from anything that can burn,” including a home, wooden fence, or any flammable materials, said Chief Keith Johnson, of the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System. “We even see grills being used in a garage, which, of course, is a no-no.”

Maintenance is important for any grill, whether it is charcoal or propane, Johnson said.

“You have to clean your grill — you have to remove the grease buildup,” Johnson said. “It’s like maintaining a car.”

For a charcoal grill, Johnson said a goal is to eliminate the chance of a flare-up.

“You should always use charcoal lighter fluid that’s specifically for charcoal, not any other flammable liquid,” Johnson said. “Put the charcoal lighter fluid on the charcoal, then light it, with an open lid.”

Avoid spraying lighter fluid on the fire once it’s already lit, he said.

Even after the hot dogs and hamburgers come off the charcoal grill, the fire risk continues, Johnson said. Briquettes can remain hot for more than 24 to 48 hours, he added.

Soak burned charcoal briquettes and ashes with water and place them in a metal container overnight that’s kept away from any structure. In the morning, recheck the container to ensure nothing is smoldering before disposing of the wet materials.

If this is the first time you’ve used a propane grill this year, Johnson suggests checking for leaks.

“Take a soap and water solution, spray it on the valves, spray it on the hoses, and check for any leak. If it’s bubbling, that’s a sign that there could be a leak,” he said.

If unable to turn off a leaky grill, call 911, Johnson said.

Fire isn’t the only safety risk when grilling.

“Half the injuries from grills are caused by thermal injuries,” or burns, Johnson said. “You want to have gloves, you want to potentially have long-handled tools so you’re not putting your hands over the flame, to take care of those burgers and dogs.”

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up