FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) - Your backyard grill may be the center of many summertime activities, but it also could be the source of a dangerous and damaging fire.
After a series of grill fires in Central Indiana in May, 24-Hour News 8 started looking at the risks and found some common mistakes being made and some easy steps anyone can take to prevent grill fires.
A FEW CLICKS
A typical night changed with one click in a Fishers townhome on Chancery Lane in May .
"They were up there grilling and the gas exploded up on the deck area," said neighbor Steve Harrell about the night the grill on the townhome balcony exploded.
According to the Fishers Fire Department, the man grilling had a full fire extinguisher and discharged it completely with little to no effect on the fire.
"We went outside, the grill had already caught the balcony on fire," said RaShelle Scott, who lives in the townhome that sustained damaged next door. "There is a 2 foot overhang, so once it went up … it caught the balcony and started going into the kitchen area."
All that's left of the two story townhome is charred remains. Three families are out of their homes, including the Scotts who won't be able to move back in for at least six months.
"You feel helpless," Scott recalled emotionally. "You have everything and think, ‘I have it all together' and you just watch it burn."
During the same two-day period in May, there were two more grill fires . One was in Noblesville in the 19500 block of Prairie Crossing Drive. It caused $35,000 in damages. In the third, an Indianapolis family in the 6300 block of Winslow Drive awakened to their home on fire hours after they turned off their grill. They are among the nearly 7,000 grill fires reported in the U.S. every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
"I'd say the biggest mistake is leaving the grill unattended, and the majority of the time it's the grease that is going to catch on fire and get out of control," said Fishers firefighter Mark Williams.
24-Hour News 8 teamed up with the Fishers Fire Department to test out grill fires. Press play in the video player above to see what happened.
"It will take off before you know it," says firefighter John Hinton. "You walk in the house and walk back out and it's going."
The grease fires in grills can easily spread. Once the house catches fire Williams says, "It will go up and into the eaves and go into the attic."
Grease fires are one issue. Another issue is what happened to ESPN anchor Hannah Storm.
She thought she lit the grill, went inside, came out and tried to relight it. It exploded in flames, severely burning her hands, arms and face.
If you light it with the grill top closed, the gas builds up.When the grill goes out or was never lit in the first place, that propane keeps flowing. Since propane is heavier than air, it pools and fills the grill. The buildup of gas explodes as you try to relight it.
"It is going to engulf anyone that's around," Williams said. "Anyone standing at the grill could be engulfed with flames."
To keep that from happening, Williams recommends after a failed attempt to light a grill, open the lid, shut off the valve, wait 5 minutes and smell for gas.
Here were other grill safety tips from fire officials:
- Always keep the grill 5-10 feet from the house.
- Keep a small spray bottle to control "hot spots."
- Never put water on a grease fire. It will expand and explode out. Instead, firefighters say keep a fire extinguisher nearby and shut off the gas valve.
- Some flames are common with cooking, but firefighters say if the flames are in the propane tank or on anything but the grill, call 911.
- Do not leave the grill unattended.
- Avoid storing propane tanks under or near the grill.
- Check the grill's grease pan frequently and clean out the buildup.
Now that she's living with what a grill fire left behind, RaShelle Scott has advice for anyone cooking out: "Don't ever grill on a balcony. Don't ever grill on a balcony."
Even now, across from Scott's burnt home, there is siding melting from the heat of the grill being used on the balcony, not from the fire that destroyed her home.
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