Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service is reminding everyone to ‘chill that grill’ and make sure they take sensible precautions when using and disposing of instant barbecues.

firemen barbecue callout
Firefighters attend an incident where barbecuse have been discarded when hot. Photograph Fire and Rescue Service

The recent hot weather, and the prospect of more to come, has seen more of us decide to cook and eat outdoors. But the dangers of not disposing of barbecues responsibly were highlighted recently when Newquay firefighters attended an incident where several disposable barbecues had been discarded while still hot. 

Since 2020, Cornwall’s firefighters have attended 59 callouts to fire-related incidents involving barbecues of all kinds.    

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service station manager (prevention), Scott Brown, said: “It’s natural to want to go outdoors and enjoy the warmer weather with family and friends, but if you’re using a disposable barbecue you need to make sure it is cooled down after use and disposed of safely and considerately.”

If you are planning a barbecue in a public place, ensure:

  • you are allowed to do so at that location 
  • that the barbecue is stable and level  
  • that you have a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies 
  • you do not dispose of the barbecue until it is completely extinguished and cold, using water or sand, as hot discarded barbecues can melt plastic bins and start fires 
  • you never bury a barbecue in the sand, as this could cause serious injury 
  • you follow the Countryside  Code 
  • you never take a smouldering barbecue into a tent or indoors as it will give off carbon monoxide fumes. 

Scott said: “If you’ve planned a barbecue and the weather lets you down, don’t take the barbecue indoors or into a tent.  In recent years, some people have sadly succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning as a result.”

Top barbecue safety tips

  • Never leave a barbecue unattended
  • When having a barbecue, consider how the smoke will affect others
  • If there is a wind blowing, make sure it is blowing away from you when you light the barbecue (just in case it flares up)
  • Ensure that you are not wearing any loose clothing that could flap onto the lighted barbecue and catch fire
  • Keep the barbecue well away from overhanging obstructions such as tree branches, and keep a safe distance from fences, garden sheds, tents, and caravans.
  • Do not use any flammable liquid other than recommended barbecue lighting fluid. Never use methylated spirits, paraffin, or petrol
  • If you choose to use lighting fluid, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and do not spray onto a hot barbecue — it may blow up in your face!
  • Preferably, use firelighters. When lighting the barbecue, do so at arm’s length (rather like fireworks) and do not put your face over the range
  • Keep children away from the barbecue during and after cooking has finished, as it may still be hot. Ensure matches and lighters are placed out of reach from children
  • Dispose of the charcoal safely after the barbecue has cooled completely.  Those using gas-powered barbecues should check gas pipelines before use and ensure that the gas cylinder is connected correctly.