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Outdoor Barbecue Safety

Outdoor grilling is one of summer's great pleasures, but you need to take the proper safety precautions, whether you use charcoal or a gas grill.

The Baltimore County Fire Department recommends that backyard grillers carefully read specific product information after buying new barbeque equipment, and that they review this information each year.

County law prohibits the use of charcoal or propane-fueled grills – or any other open-flame cooking or heating device – on any balcony or within 15 feet of multi-family buildings such as apartments. This restriction does not apply to townhouses or single family homes.

Gas Grills

Liquefied petroleum gas (propane) used to fire gas barbecue grills, is highly flammable. Propane is contained under pressure in a steel cylinder. Vaporized and in a confined area, it has the explosive force of several sticks of dynamite. The Fire Department and the Office of the State Fire Marshal offer these tips for handling propane:

  • Never use a gas grill inside any structure.
  • Never transport propane gas canisters in the trunk of a car.
  • Never leave a gas or petroleum container in a car.
  • Always store propane tanks in the upright position so the relief valve is on top; otherwise, the tank could expel liquid propane if the relief valve activates.
  • Inspect propane grill hoses and connections prior to use. Make sure all fixtures, valves, and caps on propane canisters are working and are tightened properly. If the hose has deteriorated or the fittings are loose, do not use the grill until you correct the problem.
  • Never let young children use a gas-powered barbecue grill.
  • Keep propane canisters in a shady or cool location outdoors. Do not store them inside of any part of a structure, including on porches and balconies.
  • A recent safety innovation has changed the valve and relief system on small, portable propane tanks. These tanks are commonly used for fueling gas barbecue grills and camp burners. You can tell the difference between old and new versions of a tank by looking at the valve handle; older versions have a star-shaped handle, while a newer version has a three-pronged handle. Most propane filling stations no longer fill the older versions. Many do exchange old models for new ones. Make sure you use the most up-to-date propane tank for your gas grill or barbecue.
  • Deep-fat turkey fryers should never be used on a combustible deck or porch. These devices may overheat and cause the oil to catch fire and drip flaming oil on the surface below.


  • Charcoal grills should be used only on a noncombustible surface.
  • Never use a charcoal barbecue in an enclosed space or inside the house. Combustion of charcoal produces carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
  • Do not use lighter fluid on a fire that has already been started. If you need to use a starter fluid, use only charcoal lighter fluid and follow the directions on the container. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid to start a grill.
  • When disposing of ashes or used charcoal, pour water on the charcoal or ashes so they will not restart a fire.
  • Keep young children away from charcoal grills.
Revised May 31, 2017         


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