Labor Day is coming and that means barbecues are going to be fired up during the extended weekend. With the increase in outdoor cooking and activities, the risk for accidental fires caused by grills or recreational fires will be on the rise. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) nearly 8,900 residential fires caused by grills occur every year.

Dangers of Grilling By The Numbers

  • There were 16,600 people who needed emergency treatment because of injuries involving grills in 2014
  • In 2016, the United States Fire Administration estimates there were 3,700 grass and brush fires caused by outside fireplaces and firepits.
  • The leading cause of grill structure fires is a failure to properly clean the grill prior to use.
  • The second leading cause of grill fires was because the grill was positioned too close to something that could catch fire.
  • Leaks or breaks are another major contributing factor; they were the cause of 11% of grill structure fires and the cause of 23% of outside/unclassified grill fires.
  • Gas grills are the cause of more home fires that charcoal grills and should be treated with additional care.

Although intimidating, the numbers show that grilling can be dangerous – but mostly only if you are not paying attention to your surroundings. The safety of you, your family, and your guests is paramount to ensure they have a good time at your Labor Day party or any other outdoor events where fire may play a part. Avoid a fire-related accident by following these ten easy steps while grilling or hosting a recreational fire (e.g. bonfire).


  1. Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outside.
  2. Keep your grill on a flat, even surface and be sure that it is not positioned under any low hanging branches or near any flammable material.
  3. Keep your grill clean of any grease or fat build-up. Check the grills and the trays below the grills prior to lighting up the grill.
  4. Keep the grill a safe distance away from common walking or sitting areas. Set up the grill away from any places where guest may partake in games or activities.
  5. Also, keep yourself safe by using long handled grilling tools so that there is plenty of space between you and the flames.
  6. Never leave your grill unattended.

Recreational Fires

  1. Create your recreational fire in a firepit, fire ring, or other container designed for burning.
  2. Be sure the location of your firepit or bonfire is in a safe and controlled environment. Avoid placing it near flammable items.
  3. Bonfires should be at least 15 feet from trees, shrubs, bushes, or other flammable items to prevent the fire from catching and spreading.
  4. Always ensure that when the night is over that the fire has been completely extinguished. You can do this by allowing the fire to burn down to ashes, then pour water over the pit and mixing it with a shovel.

In addition to these safety tips, check with your homeowner’s insurance agency to make sure you have the right coverage to protect from any damage caused by a grilling or recreational fire.