Cullman fire marshal talks grilling safety

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CULLMAN, Ala. – It’s prime grilling time, and to bring awareness to grilling safety, The Tribune spoke with Cullman Fire Marshal Chris Chaffin.

Which is safer? Charcoal or gas? Chaffin said there’s no right answer.

“Each of these have their own inherent risks,” he said. “There is no correct answer as to which is safer. The consumer should use the one they are more comfortable with.”

When setting up a new grill, Chaffin said, “The safest way to set up your grill is to read and follow the manufacturer instructions. The safest area to do so is preferably away from any homes by a minimum of 10 feet. The grill should be placed away from the edges of any eaves or overhangs, including tree branches.”

And when you go to light it, he shared, “Most all grills require the lid to be in the open position.  Consult manufacturer instructions for your particular grill and follow them. Follow the manufacturer instructions.”

Chaffin said it’s important to clean your grill before each use.

“The buildup on grill grates is normally residue and buildup of fats from meat,” he said. “Sometimes it may be buildup of oils that have been placed on other edibles such as vegetables. Heavy buildup will actually ignite which could possibly damage the grates and the grill itself.”

What do you do with a grease fire or flare up?

“Do not leave the grill unattended,” said Chaffin. “Flare ups are an inherent risk when grilling. Decrease the heat, move the food around to another spot on the grill.”

Chaffin provided additional safety tips for propane grills, saying, “Inspect all hoses and connections before use. Do not overfill propane tanks. Keep tanks in a shaded area to prevent pressure buildup and possible off-gassing in direct sunlight.”

Additional tips from the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
    • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
    • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
    • Keep the grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
    • Never leave a grill unattended.

For more information on grilling safety, visit

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