Grilling safety: Don’t let that cookout cost you an accidental fire

A weekend cookout in Warren on Saturday turned into two separate garage fires and an estimated $20,000 in damage

Charcoal grill garage fire, Warren

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Cookouts are a big part of summer, especially during the holidays. But if you’re using a charcoal grill, handling the coals properly could save you from an accidental fire.

A weekend cookout in Warren on Saturday turned into two separate garage fires and an estimated $20,000 in damage.

Mary Applequist and her family should have been vacationing in Niagra Falls on Monday. Instead, she and her neighbor were cleaning their Hamilton Street garages.

“Anyone out there, do not dump your ashes in a trash can because as you can see, this is what can happen to you,” Applequist said.

According to State Farm Insurance, both gas and charcoal grills cause ten deaths, 140 injuries, 16,900 emergency room visits, and $96 million in property damage each year.

Applequist was cooking dinner on the grill Saturday and waited until Sunday to put the charcoals in their plastic garbage can.

“Next thing I know, my son is coming over, yelling, ‘The garages are on fire!’ And we come out and we rescue as much stuff as we could,” she said.

One wall of her garage is badly burnt but her son’s garage next door is the one that took the brunt of the damage. They were able to save his car and a lawn mower.

Warren Fire Chief Ken Nussle said fires caused by grills are rare in the city but he does have some advice.

“My recommendation is to let them cool at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours, then dispose of them in an old coffee can or aluminum foil,” Nussle said.

He also said you should let the coals cool naturally by letting them sit inside the grill with the lid closed. Then, throw them out in a metal container — not inside a plastic trash can.

Nussle does not suggest just throwing water onto charcoal. He said you can soak them in water before throwing them out, though.

When cooking on a charcoal grill, there are several safety tips you should keep in mind:

  • Use charcoal grills in a well-ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • For gas grills, check the gas lines for cracking, sharp bends, or brittleness — the leading cause of gas grill fires is a fuel line leak or break
    • Rub soapy water on the line and look for bubbling to test for leaks
  • Clean your grill and grease pans to prevent flare-ups
  • Never leave the grill unattended
  • Keep the grill away from children, buildings, and combustibles, like gasoline and lighter fluid
  • Never add lighter fluid to hot coals
  • Never use gasoline or kerosene as a starter fluid


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