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LARA and State Fire Marshal Offer Fire and Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips Ahead of Memorial Day

As we celebrate Memorial Day, State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer encourages Michiganders to be safe as they gather with family and friends over the holiday weekend. 

“The majority of grill fires are caused by malfunctioning gas grills,” said Fire Marshal 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 require liquid propane gas which requires special handling. Charcoal grills can be potentially dangerous as well 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, as this could be a carbon monoxide risk. 
  • Grill on a level surface at least 10 feet away from your house and garage. Do not grill 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 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.  
  • 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 fire could 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.  
  • When operating an electric charcoal starter outdoors, use an extension cord. 
  • 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. 


Carbon Monoxide (CO) Safety

The State Fire Marshal’s Office also encourages Michiganders to educate their families on the risks of carbon monoxide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is the cause of approximately 50,000 preventable emergency room visits each year. When visiting loved ones this weekend, make sure they have a working CO detector, along with 10-year lithium batteries inside of them. As always, if a detector goes off, leave the exposure area in your home immediately and call 911. 

LARA and the Bureau of Fire Services would like to wish all Michiganders a safe Memorial Day Weekend. We honor and thank the fallen who so courageously gave their lives while serving their country.  

For more information on fire and CO safety, please visit: