Grilling/Open Burning

Fire Prevention Code Reference on Open Burning, Warming Fires and Grilling

Grilling Safety Tips

In the interest of everyone having a safe and enjoyable outdoor grilling season, the Arlington County Fire Department would like to share some information on open flame cooking devices.

Grills must be used outdoors.  Use of a grill indoors or in any enclosed space, such as tents, garages, etc. poses both a fire hazard and risk of exposure to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.

  • Position the grill 15 feet away from siding, deck railings, other combustibles, and out from under eaves or overhanging vegetation.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area – declare a 3-foot “safe zone” around the grill.
  • Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by heat.

Try the fire chief’s flank steak recipe.

Private Dwellings (single family homes, duplexes, townhouses)

Charcoal Grills
  • Only proper charcoal starter fluid should be used – Never use flammable or combustible liquid, other than charcoal starter fluid, to ignite the grill.
  • Store charcoal starter fluid out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have been ignited.
  • Charcoal ash can remain hot for several days, and can start a fire long after the grill has been used.  Use caution when disposing of ashes and never store ashes in a plastic or other combustible container.
Gas Grills
  • Check for gas leaks before using the grill for the first time each year.
  • Soapy bubble test

1. Turn on the gas supply (not the grill).

2. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose and couplings (a spray bottle works well).

Bubbles reveal escaping gas.  If you determine your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test:

a. Turn off the gas supply

b. If the leak stops, have the grill serviced by a qualified professional before use.

c. If the leak does not stop, call the Fire Department – 911

  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately turn off the gas supply, get away from the grill and call the fire department.  Do not attempt to move the grill.
  • All gas cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPDs).  OPDs shut off the flow of gas before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up.  You can easily identify OPDs by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
  • Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory and properly listed for the application (commercial, residential, etc.)  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on assembly, installation, use and maintenance.
  • Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
  • Natural gas installations require permits and inspections by the building department, Inspections Services Division.

Multi-Family Dwellings (garden apartments/condos, high-rises)

If you live in a high-rise or multi-family dwelling, remember that use or storage of open flame cooking devices is prohibited by County Code unless the building, and balcony or deck are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.  Additionally, the use or storage of propane (LP gas) is prohibited in or on any building.  Violations can result in jail time and a $2,500 fine.

  • Electric cookers
  • Electric grills
  • Charcoal grills
  • Propane grills
  • Solid fuel grills
  • Brazier or hibachi
  • Liquefied petroleum gas-fired stove
  • Smokers (solid, fueled, electric, gas)
  • Flame-producing devices and/or open flames

Open Burning

Leaves and Yard Waste: prohibited

Bonfires: Permit Required.

Outdoor Warming Fires: Permissible outside single family homes, duplexes or townhouses, or on sprinklered balconies of multi-family dwellings. All outdoor warming fires require the following:

  • Use dry, seasoned wood in an approved container such as chimineas, outdoor fire places, barbecue grills, fire pits, fire bowls or fire houses
  • Must be attended
  • Method of extinguishment readily available

Questions? Call the Fire Prevention Office at 703-228-4644.