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Michigan Fire Marshal Offers Fire Safety Tips to Help Kick Off Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer season for many Michigan residents. That also means the start of the outdoor grilling season.  With the holiday weekend quickly approaching, the State Fire Marshal’s Office would like to offer the following fire safety tips to help keep Michiganders safe.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in a report released in May 2020, between 2014-2018 there were an annual average of 3,900 home fires with 80 civilian injuries, that totaled $99 million in direct property damage from gas fueled grill fires.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is committed to helping Michiganders grill safely and responsibly this summer. “Before firing up the grill, use common sense and follow a few simple safety precautions to avoid serious burns and fires," said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. 

"The majority of grill fires are caused by malfunctioning gas grills,” said Sehlmeyer. "Six out of seven grill fires involve a gas grill and are most often caused by a leak or break in hoses or other equipment. Maintenance and grill part replacement is particularly important with gas grills to protect yourself and your family."

Sehlmeyer says that popular gas grills and gas/wood fired smokers are generally safe and convenient but bring into play liquid propane gas (LPG) which requires special handling, tight connections of hoses and storage of the tanks. Charcoal grills can also be potentially dangerous when not used properly or placed too close to houses, garages, and outbuildings. 

Before you light up the grill, remember:

  • Always grill outdoors. NEVER grill indoors or in the garage. Grills can be a hazard and they release carbon monoxide, a deadly, odorless, colorless gas.
  • Grill on a level surface at least 10 feet away from your house, garage and not below overhanging eaves. Keep grills at least three feet from railings, fencing or privacy screens, branches, hanging baskets and backyard furniture.
  • Never use a grill on a balcony.
  • Keep children and pets well away from the grill area.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.  
  • Don't overload the grill with food. Excessive fat and grease dripping on flames can ignite large flare ups.
  • Clean your grill often, removing grease and fat buildup from the grates and in the trays below.
  • Never fight a fire yourself. Call 911 and let the firefighters do their job.

Gas grill safety

  • Check gas tank hoses for gas leaks before the first use each year. Applying a light soap and water solution will reveal any leaking propane. Never use a match to check for leaks.
  • If you detect a leak, turn off the gas valve on the tank immediately and don't use the grill until it's serviced by a professional.
  • Before filling a liquid propane cylinder, check it for dents or gouges. Don't overfill the cylinder.
  • NEVER turn on the gas when the lid is closed. The propane may build up inside and when ignited, the lid could blow off or a fireball can explode in your face.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately turn off the gas valve on the tank.
  • Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
  • When finished with the grill, turn off the burners and close the propane cylinder valve. 

Charcoal grill safety

  • Use only charcoal starter fluid (never gasoline or kerosene) to light the grill.  
  • If using an electric charcoal starter (which does not use fire) use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  • Always use charcoal grills outside in a well-ventilated area. Charcoal briquettes give off deadly carbon monoxide gas.
  • Let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container or soak partially cooled ashes completely in water before disposal.

In addition to fire safety and prevention, it’s important to handle food items safely when grilling to prevent foodborne illness. Rates of foodborne illness tend to increase during the summer months because germs grow faster in warmer, more humid weather. People also cook and eat outside, making shortcuts to food safety tempting because they are away from the convenience of soap and running water at the kitchen sink.

“Having your family or friends get sick from the food you prepare is a sure way to ruin your summer fun,” said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Don’t let foodborne illness ruin the cookout – follow food safety guidelines like washing your hands, avoiding cross-contamination through cooking utensils and serving trays, thoroughly cooking your food, and checking food temperatures with a thermometer.”

Have a fire safe summer and enjoy the weather with your friends and family.  The State Fire Marshal reminds visitors and residents of Michigan to “Push the Button” on your Smoke Alarms and CO detectors monthly at home and make sure there are working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when visiting cottages, cabins, trailers, boats and other types of structures used for sleeping while enjoying the Great Lakes state.  For more information on fire safety and information to prevent fires visit or follow MI Prevention on social media.


Tables to support the Home Grill Fires Report: Home Grill Fires, Supporting Tables (

To find out more information visit the Bureau of Fire Services website at or contact the Bureau of Fire Safety at 517-241-8847.

For more information about LARA, please visit

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