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Tips for Propane Gas and Charcoal Barbeque Grills​

The NIH Fire Marshal would like to share a few tips that will make using your propane gas barbeque grill a fire-safe and enjoyable experience. Approximately 70 percent of all U.S. households own at least one outdoor barbeque grill or smoker. On most summer days there are more than four million propane gas barbeque grills in use in the United States. Because they are easy to use, homeowners sometimes can be careless in their use. Many times, grills are not inspected, maintained, used and stored in a safe and appropriate way.

Checking and Maintaining Your Propane Gas Barbeque Grill

When assembling a new unit, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. When in doubt, take it back to the store or dealer, or call a qualified propane service technician. Before using your propane gas barbeque grill for the first time of the season, make sure the burner ports are free of rust or dirt, and that the burner gas supply throat (the tube connected to the burner) is free of dirt, dust, or cobwebs. Leak test the fittings that run from the propane tank to the grill. Never Check for Leaks with an Open Flame. If you discover a leak, turn off the propane cylinder valve and replace the hose and fitting or have them checked and repaired by a qualified propane service technician. Some propane gas barbeque grills have an "O" ring at the nozzle type fitting that can be damaged by cracking or losing its shape and will need to be replaced to ensure a proper fit and prevent a propane gas leak. For more information: (Anyone unable to view this or any videos in this message may contact the NIH Fire Marshal for a verbal explanation.)

Lighting, Operation and Storage of a Propane Gas Barbeque Grill

When lighting the grill without a built-in igniter - have the match or lighter already burning and the lid open before you turn the gas on. Never move the grill once it is lit. Keep the grill at least 10 feet from vinyl siding, deck rails and eaves. Keep an eye on your grill while cooking without any distractions. Clean your grill after each use. This will remove food particles and grease that can start a fire. Store, transport and use propane cylinders in the upright, vertical position. While transporting a gas cylinder in your vehicle, secure in the upright position to prevent from tipping over. For more information:

Charcoal Grills

There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allowing you to ignite the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel. If you use starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or other flammable liquids to the fire. When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container with a lid. For more information:

Procedures for Use and Operation of a Gas Grill at NIH Facilities

Prior to using an open flame barbeque or any other mobile cooking on the NIH campus, please see Administrative Interpretation 20-2 on the DFM website: Obtain a Mobile and Temporary Cooking Permit by contacting the Division of the Fire Marshal at 301-496-0414. The Fire Inspector will explain proper gas grill use and propane cylinder storage when visiting the site for the inspection and issuance of required permit.

If you have any questions regarding barbeque gas grills, please contact the NIH Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487. Use their hazard reporting tool for situations on campus:​. You may remain anonymous when reporting a hazard, but it always helps to have a contact so we can obtain information as needed.

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