Reports of wildfires in Canada and the smoke they create have been in the headlines recently. A few weeks ago we had our own encounter with fire, but it was much closer to home.
We keep a Weber grill in an outdoor porch that’s open on two sides. Our normal routine when using this is to pre-heat it, place food items on it when it reaches the right temperature, set a timer for five minutes to remind us to turn the items over, and then go inside. We can clearly see the grill from inside.
In mid-May we were grilling four pieces of chicken using our normal routine. About ten minutes into the grilling, I looked out from inside the house to see flames coming out the sides of the grill. I headed for the porch while asking my wife to grab a fire extinguisher and meet me at the grill. After just a few moments the flames were getting out-of-control. Seeing this, I opened the lid, pointed the fire extinguisher at the base of the flames, and pulled up on the lower handle. Within seconds the fire was out. We were thankful to the Lord that any sort of disaster was averted.
The image above does not show the dry-chemical residue from the fire extinguisher that was left inside the grill. This was pretty extensive. It was mixed with drippings that had accumulated since I completely cleaned the grill several months earlier.
We learned a few things from this experience. First, I’m not sure what we would have done had several fire extinguishers not been available in our home. The flames were quite intense, and given the fact that grease was involved, water would likely have made things worse.
The second thing I learned was how quickly one can empty a three-pound fire extinguisher. I estimate that I operated the unit, which according to the gauge was full, for less than eight seconds. Afterward it registered almost empty. A few days later I went outside to finish off the fire extinguisher before disposing of it. I was surprised to find that it had nothing left at all.
Finally, I learned that Weber takes grill fires very seriously. After the incident I took the grill apart. I found that half the openings in both of the burner tubes were corroded, despite being made from stainless steel. This meant that most of the flames were concentrated in just a few areas of the grill. I wrote them to ask if this might have contributed to the fire. What followed was an investigation on their part. This involved a lot of questions, and requests for us to send in numerous images of the grill from a variety of angles.
In the end, Weber was great to work with. They sent me a new set of burner tubes at no cost. They also offered several recommendations for future grill operation. This included not grilling within the porch, and cleaning out the grill more often than I had done in the past.
As we reflected on this incident, especially the lessons-learned, we took a few steps. First, we did some research and purchased new fire extinguishers that were rated for A, B, and C fires. A few of these are shown in the image at the top of this page. We replaced several because they were more than ten years old. We also chose to include at least one that was eight pounds rather than three. This should provide more than the eight seconds of operation that we got from the smaller unit.
During our review of what we had, we learned that Kidde, the manufacturer of the fire extinguishers we had on hand during this incident, has a active recall of certain models. This included two that we owned. We went online, entered the information, and they sent out new units at no cost. They did ask that we send in the old units at their cost. For the units we purchased on our own, we chose to go with First Alert. They had some very good reviews, and were available at our local Lowes. We now have a fire extinguisher easily accessible from every room of our home, the porch, and in our garage. We also purchased several units for the homes of our daughter and her husband, and for our son and his wife.
Given what took place, we highly recommend that you have fire extinguishers readily accessible in your home, and that you ensure they are fully charged and not out-of-date. As we often say, one of the best ways to learn is from the experiences of others.
The good news is that the dry chemical used in our fire extinguisher was non-toxic. This meant that we could clean up the grill, rebuild the internal components, and are once again enjoying using it, albeit in a slightly safer way.