Guest Article: Fire Marshal Jimmy Williams, “Summer Season: Peak Time for Grilling Fires”

Outdoor cooking fires peak during the month of July, with more grill fires occurring around July 4th, than during any other holiday period.


Publisher’s Note: Montgomery County Fire Marshal Jimmy Williams writes some of the best press releases this newspaper has ever seen. Here’s one he issued this morning, which we’re reprinted in whole.

By Jimmy Williams, Montgomery County Fire Marshal

There’s nothing better than the smell of food on the grill while celebrating our Country’s independence. Three out of five households own a gas grill, which translates to a lot of tasty meals. But it also means there’s an increased risk of home fires. Each year an average of 8,900 home fires are caused by grilling, and close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns. While nearly half of the people who grill do it year-round, July is the peak month for grill fires followed by May, June and August.

While gas grills cause more home fires than charcoal grills, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds everyone that all types of grills pose a risk for fires and burn injuries. Nationally, over one-quarter (27 percent) of home grill fires started on an exterior balcony or open porch, another 27 percent started in a courtyard, terrace or patio, and eight percent began in the kitchen. “As friends and families get ready for the grilling season, make sure the grill is working properly, and review safety tips,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. “The leading causes of home grilling fires are failing to properly clean the grill or having a flammable object too close to the grill. It’s also important to check the grill for damage before using it for the first time each year, and then to check it regularly.”

Fire officials suggest the following tips for grilling:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed away the home or deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Children and pets should be at least three feet away from the grill area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease and fat buildup from the grates and trays below.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.

In Montgomery County, the risk is greatest when charcoal BBQ pits are used on wooden decks or when both charcoal and gas grills are set up to close to homes or not maintained. The International Fire Code, adopted by Montgomery County, prohibits the use of charcoal and most gas fired grills and pits on balconies in apartments and condominium complexes.

Grilling by the numbers

  • In 2014, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills
  • July is the peak month for grill fires (17%), including both structure, outdoor or unclassified fires, followed by May, June and August
  • A failure to clean the grill was the leading factor contributing to the fire in one –fifth of all grill structure fires (19%). In 17%, something that could catch fire was too close to the grill
  • Leaks or breaks were the factor in 11% of grill structure fires and 23% of outside and unclassified grill fires
  • Gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires overall than their charcoal counterparts

Source: NFPA’s “Home Grill Fires” report

For additional information and resources including tips for outdoor cooking with portable grills, visit





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