Fatal Hope Mills fire highlights need for grill safety

Posted March 21, 2012


— As spring brings warmer weather to North Carolina and sunshine lasts longer into the evening, many people will give their stovetops a rest, take the cooking outside and fire up the grill.

The popular spring and summer pastime of grilling out certainly has its perks, but it can also be dangerous, says Kathy Ellis, a senior code official and education specialist with the Cary Fire Department.

Earlier this month, a Fort Bragg soldier and his two daughters died in {{a href-"story-1"}}a house fire in Hope Mills{{/a}} that investigators believe was sparked by a grill on the deck. Last summer, a malfunctioning gas grill caused a blaze in Raleigh that severely damaged a home on Watauga Court.

"It's definitely a big problem," Ellis said. "We have fires every year that result from the misuse of grills."

She says one of the biggest dangers is grilling too close to a building. In apartment buildings, the fire code is clear: no grilling within 10 feet.

At one- or two-family houses or townhomes, however, that law doesn't apply.

Kathy Ellis Cary fire official offers tips for safe grilling

"We have no control over what somebody does at their home," she said.

Still, there are some guidelines and precautions to preventing fires that are smart to follow:

  • Maintain a 10-foot clearance between a grill and a building,
  • When using a gas grill, make sure fittings are tight, and check the hose.
  • Don't grill too closely to pine straw, pine bark or leaves.
  • Only use starter fluid to ignite a charcoal grill; never use gasoline.
  • Don't leave a hot grill unattended.
  • When finished, close the grill and douse hot coals with water.

When in doubt, Ellis said, use common sense.

"You just have to really pay attention to what you're doing," she said.

The National Fire Protection Association also offers these tips for safe grilling.


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  • mpheels Mar 22, 2012

    As an apartment dweller, I'm glad the fire code restricts the use of grills near multi-family buildings. I really don't want to deal with a fire because my neighbor forgot his burgers. On the other hand, standard apartment leases bar the use of grills near buildings anyway, so the fire code is a little redundant.

    For single family homes, it would be overreaching to legislate the location of grills. I would fully support insurance companies considering the placement of grills when setting premiums, or refusing to pay claims for fires caused by grills set too close to houses.

  • yankee1 Mar 21, 2012

    Be careful people! Carry on enough and some bureaucrat will write a regulation prohibiting grilling within 800 feet of any structure!

  • CaptainClucksDuckboatAdventures Mar 21, 2012

    Ironically, Firestation 5 on Oberlin Road has their grill just outside the back door on their deck!

  • Rocky2.0 Mar 21, 2012

    ""We have no control over what somebody does at their home," she said."

    As you shouldn't.