PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The last thing you want to happen when you go to cook some steaks or burgers for your family is a grill fire.
However, it does happen to thousands of people every year and some of them are seriously burned.
It happens in a flash with just the push of a button and that backyard grill sends flames flying.
That’s what happened to James Och, of Banksville.
“The whole front of it buckled out a bit, the knobs flew off and a fire ball came up out of here,” Och said.
Sports anchor Hannah Storm knows first-hand the danger of gas grill explosions.
A grilling accident at her home left her with first and second-degree burns on her face, chest and hands.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are roughly 7,000 gas grill fires each year in the United States.
Using a gas grill is easy, but so is setting off an explosion like this.
Here’s how it happens: You turn on the propane, but the grill fails to light. The gas will begin to pool and propane is heavier than air under any conditions.
As the Berkeley Hills Fire Department showed KDKA-TV’s Susan Koeppen, trying to relight that grill could cause a fire ball.
“You start it up, you forget about it, without igniting it, you came back a few minutes later it can cause the explosion,” Captain Wesley Semple said.
Semple said you should always start your grill with the lid up. If the flames go out open it up and make sure the propane is shut off. Let is air out for a couple minutes before turning the propane back on and trying to light it again.
In Hannah Storm’s case, she re-lit the grill before letting it air out. She hopes her story educates others about the dos and don’ts of lighting your gas grill.
Before you use your grill this season, you should look at the line from your propane tank to your grill. If there’s a crack or leak that can also lead to an explosion.
There is an easy way to check for leaks. Turn on the gas and put some soapy water on the line, if it starts to bubble, you have a leak.
Newer grills have a lot of safety features like more venting to prevent gas from building up.
It’s also worth noting that the danger of a propane build up is actually higher in colder weather because the propane pools more easily when it’s cold and doesn’t dissipate as fast.