Don’t Get Burned by Your Gas Grill
Nearly everyone has a gas grill on their back patio these days. Grilling - especially on a summer night - can be a fun and convenient way to cook a meal and relax with family and friends. Most people in West Virginia don't even think twice about the potential dangers involved with it.
However, all it takes is a slight gas leak or a safety oversight to turn a backyard barbecue into a frightening experience, leading to fires, explosions and burn injuries.
If you don't think it could happen to you, then you might want to consider a story recently reported by WCHS-TV.
According to the TV station, a family of four in Jackson County recently lost their home after a propane grill tank exploded in their backyard. The father told the station that he believes the grill's propane line failed, "shooting 12-foot flames into the back of his house."
You may also want to check out this Today Show video. It highlights just how easily an explosion can occur due to a propane gas tank leak - and how devastating the damaging can be.
How Common Are Propane Gas Grill Fires?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that, on average, 8,800 home fires occur each year which involve grills, hibachis or barbecues, with July being the peak month. The majority of the fires - 82 percent - involve gas grills such as those that use liquid propane (LP) or natural gas.
Home grill-related structure fires typically start in an exterior balcony or open porch or in a courtyard, terrace or patio, NFPA figures indicate.
The NFPA reports that each year, these grill-related fires cause:
- 140 injuries
- 10 deaths
- $96 million in direct property damage.
Most grill-related injuries involve burns from contact with flames. However, burns can also result from contact with a hot grill surface - especially among children.
For instance, during one recent year, nearly 17,000 people went to emergency rooms in the U.S. for grill-related injuries, including 4,500 thermal non-fire grill burns. Out of those victims, 37 percent were children ages 5 and younger - many of whom suffered contact burns rather than flame burns, the NFPA reports.
Can Defective Propane Gas Grills, Tanks and Components Start Fires?
Gas grill fires and explosions tend to occur due to a leak or a break in a line that allows highly flammable propane gas to build up under the hood of a grill. When the grill is ignited using a switch, match or lighter, the grill can burst into a ball of fire and cause serious burns to the face, neck, arms and legs.
A potential reason for the leak may be a design or manufacturing defect. As you can see by visiting the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website, gas grill and liquid propane tank recalls take place all of the time due to defective components that create fire and burn hazards.
Defective components can include:
- Propane tanks (which may be cracked or corroded)
- Regulators (which may fail to control the flow of gas)
- Hoses (which may be broken or cracked)
- Burner tubes
- Burner control knobs
- Ignition switches (or starters)
- Hoods (which may not provide proper ventilation).
If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective gas grill, propane tank or component, you may be able to seek a recovery by pursuing a product liability action against the manufacturer and/or seller. It is important to contact an attorney to learn more about your legal rights.
What Can You Do To Prevent a Gas Grill Fire at Your Home?
While you have no control over a design or manufacturing defect, you can take steps to make grilling as safe as possible at your home. The following are four steps that can help to prevent grill-related fires, explosions and burns:
- Check for leaks. Check your propane tank and all valves, connectors and hoses. Make sure they are in good condition and check for possible leaks - especially if you have not used the grill in a long time or if you just connected a new tank. You can do two types of tests to check for leaks:
- Smell test - As this propane gas distributor describes, most LP gas tanks contain ethyl mercaptan, which has a distinct, rotten smell. If you turn the valve on your tank and detect this odor, you may have a leak.
- Soap-and-water test - The NFPA suggests applying a soap-and-water solution to the hose. If there is a leak, bubbles will develop.
If you can get the leak to stop, don't try to repair the problem yourself. Simply take the tank or grill to the dealer you bought it from and demand a replacement or a professional repair, the NFPA warns. If you can't get the leak to stop, call the fire department. In either case, don't use the grill before the issue is addressed!
- Don't force it. When you light a gas grill, always make sure the hood is raised so that gas does not build up. If you turn the valve and hit an ignition switch, but the grill won't light, stop what you are doing. Check to see if the burner tubes may be blocked by food, ashes or bugs. Wait several minutes before you try again.
- Grill only in open outdoor areas. It's common sense to grill only in the outdoors. However, make sure the grill is in an open area outside. Don't grill under a roof or in an enclosed area like a porch or under a carport.
- Watch for children. Keep the grill away from any area where kids are playing and make sure kids are supervised at all times when the grill is fired up. You don't want a child who is running around or playing to accidentally fall into the grill and suffer a contact burn.