Grilling/Open Burning

Grilling Outside Single-Family Homes

General Tips

Only use gas and charcoal BBQ grills outdoors. When used indoors — or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents — grills pose both a fire hazard and a risk of exposure to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.

  • Position the grill 10 feet away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves or overhanging branches.
  • 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 when flipping burgers.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by heat.
Charcoal Grills
  • Purchase the proper starter fluid; store the can out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have been ignited.
  • Never use flammable or combustible liquid, other than charcoal starter fluid, to get a fire going.
Gas Grills
  • Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose; bubbles reveal escaping propane. If you determine your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there’s no flame:
    1. Turn off the gas tank and grill.
    2. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
    3. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately 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. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
  • 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.

Grilling Outside Multi-Family Dwellings

If you live in a high-rise or multi-family dwelling, remember that cooking on unsprinklered balconies, with any flame-producing device, is prohibited by County Code. Violations can result in jail time and a $2,500 fine.

  • Electric cookers
  • Electric grills
  • Charcoal grills
  • Propane grills
  • Brazier or hibachi
  • Liquefied petroleum gas-fired stove
  • Flame-producing devices
  • Storage or use of gasoline or flammable liquid devices

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

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

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