Rochester, NY

Safe backyard grilling reduces injuries and protects property

More than 19,000 people in the U.S. are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for injuries involving grills, according to data compiled by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and reviewed by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. About half of the injuries were thermal burns from either the fire or contact with hot objects. Children under five accounted for more than a third of the contact-type burns.

Amanda Shanahan

“Burns usually are the result of someone, often a child, bumping into, touching, or falling onto the grill, the hot lid, or the hot coals,” says Amanda Shanahan, registered dietitian nutritionist and manager of employee wellbeing at Excellus BCBS. “The statistics on grill-related injuries are eye-opening, but so are the stats on property damage caused by grills that are improperly used.” 

According to NFPA, 64% of U.S. households own at least one outdoor BBQ, grill, or smoker. 

Data compiled by the organization shows that U.S. fire departments respond to an annual average of 10,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues, resulting in 10 deaths, 160 injuries, and $149 million in property damage.

Leading causes of grill fires include failing to clean the grill, using the grill too close to combustible materials, leaving the grill unattended, and leaks or breaks in the grill or fuel source.

A study of residential grill fires issued in 2010 by the U.S. Fire Administration found that 32% of grill fires on residential properties start on patios, terraces, screened-in porches, or courtyards, while an additional 24% start on exterior balconies and unenclosed porches. 

“With the backyard grilling season in full swing, we need to remind everyone of safety practices for maintaining and operating backyard grills,” says Shanahan. NFPA offers the following tips and recommendations

  • Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. 
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • If you use a starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you have finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container that is kept outside and away from anything flammable.
  • For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
  • Never leave your grill unattended when in use.

Karen Feigel, (585) 238-4308

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 4,000 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit


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