Fire department: please keep barbecues away from the wall

Fire prevention officer Cody Robinson

After fire on Park Road, fire prevention officer Cody Robinson offers advice about barbecue safety. Propane is safe, but. . .  

What caused the big fire which rendered eight families on Park Road in Gibsons homeless last month? The Gibsons Fire Department won’t say, but after the incident, fire prevention officer Cody Robinson is eager to offer advice about gas barbecue safety.

The number one reason for barbecue fires is that the unit was too close to a wall; vinyl or wood siding will quickly overheat and catch fire. Deck railings, eavestroughs and deck overhangs are prone to overheating too. Barbecues must be kept away from them.

Research shows that propane and natural gas barbecues contribute to a higher number of home fires than their charcoal counterparts; the temperature is usually higher than in briquette barbecues.

Robinson has been a volunteer firefighter in Gibsons since 2010, and fire prevention officer for the past two years. The Gibsons fire department has responded to two incidents with gas barbecues in the past two years where a barbecue had been too close to a wall.

“When we go home after a fire, we are likely to check our own homes: am I doing everything right?’ he says. “My barbecue is pulled away from the house. And I have a fire extinghuisher at home. It is not required, but all fires start small, and extinguishers give you a chance to nip it in the bud.”

Barbecue gas lines and  propane bottles are not unsafe. The gas hose is probably good for as long as the barbecue will last, but do check the manufacturer’s manual, Robinson advises. Gas lines and connections on barbecues, fire pits and deck heaters should be soap-tested at least once a year.

Propane bottles will only explode if exposed to excessive amounts of heat and flame. Most bottles have  pressure release valves that engage if the bottle reaches a certain temperature.

All barbecues should be cleaned regularly to prevent grease build-up in the bottom that can ignite and cause flames to shoot up.

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