For years, New York City has prohibited propane barbecue grilling on a balcony, terrace or roof. Residents can barbecue with charcoal on a balcony or terrace provided there's sufficient clearance and a source of water to douse any flare-ups.

Last year, Washington State began banning open-flame gas or charcoal barbecues on certain multifamily housing balconies where there's no overhead sprinkler.

And beginning this year, Silicon Valley placed a permanent ban on charcoal and gas fired grills on multi-family housing balconies made of wood or other combustible materials, if there is no sprinkler overhead. Propane tanks heavier than one pound are forbidden on such balconies -- sprinkler or not.

Residential barbecue bans amount to gustatory purgatory for a growing number of barbecue fans who have to wait get their thrill from a grill away from home.

Nearly 80 percent of households own an outdoor barbecue appliance and nearly 60 percent use them year round, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA).

But firing up a grill with an open flame presents a clear and present fire danger, especially in confined spaces.

The U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Data Center estimates that barbecuing accounts for more than 6,000 fires, 170 injuries, a half dozen fatalities and some $35 million in property loss each year.

Grilling responds to our primal longing for fire-kissed feasts, but singeing sustenance into submission comes with another primal directive -- protecting life and property.

The HPBA offers these tips to get you safely through a barbecued meal.

Read the owners manual. As simple as it sounds, many fail to follow instructions in their rush to barbecue heaven. The manual contains specific assembly, use and safety procedures, as well as manufacturer contact information.

Never use a grill indoors. Barbecuing in your trailer, tent, house, garage, fireplace or any enclosed area can become a carbon monoxide accumulation hazard and kill you. Barbecue smoke can clog your fireplace flue.

Even outdoors, use a well ventilated area. Laws prohibit use on certain small balconies because they don't have sufficient clearance from the building, can produce a back draft into the home and provide limited safe maneuvering space. Set the grill away from buildings, overhead combustibles, dry leaves, brush and swimming pools and swimmers. Beware of wind-blown sparks.

Follow other codes. Electric grills or accessories (rotisseries, etc.) must be properly grounded in accordance with local codes. Place electrical cords out of traffic, walkways or where people can trip over them.

Keep the grill still. Be sure all parts of the grill are level and firmly in place so that it cannot be tipped over. Don't allow play or young children near the grill. Never attempt to move a hot grill. If you stumble and drop the grill, nasty burns are possible.

Use the proper equipment. Use long-handled utensils designed for barbecue work to avoid burns and splatters. Wear clothing that does not have hanging shirt tails, frills, or apron strings that can catch fire, and use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents.

Keep the fire controlled. To put out flare-ups, either raise the food grid, spread out the coals evenly, or adjust the controls to reduce oxygen and/or lower the temperature. If you must douse the flames with a light spritz of water, first remove the food from the grill. Never leave a grill unattended once lit.

Be ready to extinguish flames. Use baking soda to control a grease fire and have a fire extinguisher handy. Keep a bucket of sand or a garden hose near if you don’t have a commercial extinguisher.

Buy a grill pad or splatter mat. Heat resistant pads placed beneath the grill are usually made of lightweight composite cement or plastic and will protect your deck or patio from any grease that misses the drip pan.


Written by Broderick Perkins