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Home : News : News
NEWS | May 25, 2023

101 Critical Days of Summer: Barbecue/grilling safety

By Jessie R. Moreno Fire Protection Inspector, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron

With the warmer weather in full swing, there’s nothing better than the smell of food on the grill. It’s estimated that seven out of 10 adults in the U.S. have a grill or smoker.

Barbecuing ranks as one of America’s favorite ways to entertain families and friends and people fire up the barbecue more than three billion times a year, said the National Fire Protection Association.

Too often though, they light up more than the grill in their quest for sizzling burgers and hot dogs.

From 2017 to 2021, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 11,422 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year, including an average of 5,763 structure fires and 5,659 outside or unclassified fires.

JBSA experienced one incident in 2011 when a housing resident at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston ignited a fire by disposing of hot coals in a dumpster.

Make sure your gas grill is working properly

  • Leaks or breaks are primarily a problem with gas grills. Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year.
  • Check the hoses from the gas supply for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Ensure there are no kinks in the hose or tubing.
  • If your grill has a gas leak detected by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off both the gas tank and the grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and do not move it. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least five minutes before re-lighting it.
  • Never store or operate a propane-powered gas grill indoors. Grills must be operated at least 10 feet from a facility.

Never leave equipment unattended

  • Make sure to closely monitor food cooking on the grill. Turn the grill off promptly when you’re done cooking, and let it cool completely before returning it to its original location.
  • For campfires, fire pits, and chimineas, always have a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby, and make sure the fire is completely out before going to sleep or leaving area.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.

Keep equipment a safe distance from things that can burn

  • Place your grill well away (at least three feet) from anything that can burn, including deck railings and overhanging branches; also keep them out from under eaves.
  • Keep portable grills a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets well away from any type of equipment in use.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.

Use fuel and fire starters properly

  • If you use a starter fluid to ignite charcoals, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  • Never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids on firepits, chimineas, or campfires.
  • After using starter fluid, cap the container and move it away from the fire.
  • Never try to restart a fire by adding additional starter fluid to an already lit grill. This will cause a flare-up.

Dispose of grilling material safely

  • Allow coals to burn out completely and let ashes cool for 48 hours before disposing properly.
  • Do not dispose of coals or ashes in dumpsters or trash receptacles.
  • If you must dispose of the ashes before fully cooled, soak them completely in water before putting them in a noncombustible container.
  • To dispose of the ashes, wrap in foil and put them in an empty non-combustible container.
  • Keep the grill clean and don’t allow grease to build up.

For any type of outdoor fire that can’t be quickly and effectively extinguished, call the fire department immediately for assistance.

For more information about grilling safety, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at or contact one of the Joint Base San Antonio fire prevention offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, 210-221-2727; JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921; or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.