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Using Gas and Charcoal Grills

The use of charcoal or gas grills requires careful attention to safety. The Baltimore County Fire Department (BCoFD) recommends that you carefully read specific product information after buying new backyard grill equipment and review this information each year.

County Law

The County Fire Code prohibits the use and storage of all types of grills on any balcony or within 15 feet of multifamily buildings such as apartments. The prohibition includes gas- and propane-fueled grills, charcoal grills, electric grills, and deep fryers. Use of these devices at multifamily buildings poses a serious fire risk to all residents of the building.

This restriction does not apply to townhouses or single-family homes.

Safety Tips

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 in a confined area, it has the explosive force of several sticks of dynamite.

BCoFD and 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.
  • Do not let young children use a gas-powered barbecue grill.
  • Keep propane canisters outdoors in a shady, cool location. Do not store them indoors, including on porches and balconies.
  • A safety innovation changed the valve and relief system on small, portable propane tanks, commonly used for fueling gas barbecue grills and camp burners; all propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPDs). 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 newer versions have a three-pronged handle. Most propane filling stations no longer fill the older versions. Many will exchange old models for new ones. Use the most up-to-date propane tank for your gas grill or barbecue.
  • Deep-fat turkey fryers should never be used on a deck or porch. These devices may overheat and cause the oil to catch fire, dripping 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 deadly carbon monoxide.
  • Do not use lighter fluid on a fire that has already been started. If you need to use a starter fluid, use charcoal lighter fluid and follow the directions on the container. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid to start a grill fire.
  • 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.

The National Fire Protection Association provides additional safe grilling tips.

Revised February 24, 2020         


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