Different types of BBQs and their fire risks


    BBQs are a mainstay of British summertime. Even when the weather is terrible, you’d be able to find a family huddled under a gazebo enjoying a burger or two and complaining about the rain (that’s probably happened more often than we’d like to admit with the weather we’ve had this summer!). But come rain or shine, the great British barbecue can bring joy to any day – until disaster strikes. BBQs create a unique risk in our properties but, when managed correctly, with the right safety measures in place, BBQ fire risks can be managed. We’ve put a handy guide together for you to understand the different types of BBQ and their fire risks.

    Different types of BBQ

    To help put this article together, we did a bit of research into the most recognisable and common types of household BBQ. They were:

    • Charcoal BBQ
    • Gas BBQ
    • Electric BBQ
    • Wood fired BBQ & fire pit
    • Portable & disposable BBQ
    • Pizza oven

    Technically a pizza oven is not a BBQ, but in the interest of being thorough, and with the rise in popularity of them recently, we thought it would be helpful to include them!

    BBQ Fire Risks

    It is well known that BBQs pose a fire risk to humans, animals, and property.

    The Home Office published a report on all accidental fires attended in September 2022 exploring fires attended by FRSs in England between April 2021 and March 2022 and detailed that 259 were caused by barbecues.

    While this is probably just a fraction of the BBQ fires that probably happened in that year – as many would be unreported or put out by the owner – it shows that BBQ fires aren’t as rare as you’d think.

    To help people stay safe while using their BBQs we have collated a guide of different types of BBQs and the fire risks associated with them.

    So, without further ado, let’s dive into it!

    Charcoal BBQs

    Why Choose a Charcoal BBQ?

    Charcoal BBQs are known for giving an authentic BBQ taste. They work using bags of charcoal, which you add to your barbecue before cooking.

    They are praised for being:

    • Clean
    • Heat effective
    • Quick to heat up
    • Versatile

    Charcoal BBQ Fire Risks

    These BBQs use charcoal to produce the heat and cook food. The dangers here can be before, during and after cooking.

    Lighter fluids used to light the charcoal can be dangerous, while grease and fat dripping on the coals during cooking can cause flare ups.

    You also cannot “turn off” the coals after cooking, they need to be left to cool before being disposed of, otherwise they can cause fires through the residual heat.

    Gas BBQs

    Why Choose a Gas BBQ?

    Convenient and quick to heat up, gas BBQs offer the ease that most people are looking for. They don’t require the long slow barbecuing that people generally associate with charcoal BBQs.

    They are also known for providing direct and consistent heat, allowing the user to change the temperature accurately and easily.

    Gas BBQ Fire Risks

    Gas BBQs have the same associated risks as with other gas-fired appliances. They generally require a cylinder of gas and it is important to look after them properly.

    You should:

    • Avoid damage to valves
    • Keep cylinders upright
    • Store them 6 meters away from your house
    • Turn them off when not in use
    • Never heat the cylinder

    Grease, dirt, and spiders can also collect in the BBQ and gas cylinder valves which obstruct gas flow and can cause ‘flashback’ fires. It is essential to keep it clean and have home firefighting equipment available in case of emergency.

    Electric BBQs

    Why Choose an Electric BBQ?

    Electric BBQs have seen growing popularity in the past couple of years. They are renowned for being portable, convenient, controllable, and, generally, safer.

    They are commonly cheaper than other types of BBQs and don’t require the purchase of fuels such as gas or charcoal.

    Electric BBQ Fire Risks

    However, the benefits of being portable and not requiring added fuel are what pose the greatest risk for users. Lithium-ion batteries, that are used to power many electric BBQs with the ability to be portable, can react badly to overheating, misuse or damage, whether accidental or not.

    Puncturing, impacts, and overcharging can all lead to a process called ‘thermal runaway’ which can cause the battery to explode!

    Wood-Fired BBQs & Fire Pits

    Why Choose a Wood-Fired BBQ or Fire Pit?

    Wood-fired BBQs and fire pits can be used as a feature in your garden, as well as a method of cooking. They are generally seen as an item of quality, fitting a certain aesthetic while cooking food in a more traditional way.

    They can come in many shapes and sizes and provide a multitude of benefits.

    Wood-Fired BBQ & Fire Pit Fire Risks

    The obvious danger with these is that they are generally open to the elements and use wood which is less easily controlled. The use of fire aids can be difficult to control, and the danger of catching items such as clothing, material, or hair, in the fire and spreading it is increased.

    Portable & Disposable BBQs

    Why Choose a Portable or Disposable BBQ?

    Portable and disposable BBQs can be highly convenient when travelling, on a sunny day, or as a treat. They require less upkeep, storage, and expense.

    Portable & Disposable BBQ Fire Risks

    The dangers of portable and disposable BBQs are widely known. They have been linked to wildfires across the world with some supermarkets across the UK withdrawing them from sale.

    When correctly used, they can be a great addition to a day, however, they can easily cause fires from spilt fuel sources, improper disposal, or careless use.

    Pizza Oven

    Why Choose a Pizza Oven?

    Pizza ovens have become a staple for many with the emergence of affordable, portable models. They are convenient and easy to use, giving the user access to high quality pizzas in their own home. With little upkeep and maintenance needed, they provide a little luxury at a reasonable price.

    Pizza Oven Fire Risks

    Pizza ovens are generally compact and use gas to get to incredibly high temperatures, cooking pizzas quickly and efficiently.

    The gas canisters pose the same risks as detailed in the gas BBQs section and the high temperatures mean that there is a risk of materials, that come into contact with the oven, igniting.

    There’s a lot of information to know about BBQs and keeping your home and loved ones safe from fire, if you want to know more about how you fight the fires, should they happen, head to familyfiresafety.com

    The Firechief range includes high-performance fire extinguishers, fire blankets, first aid kits, lithium-ion fire extinguishers.  For more information, call us on +44 (0)330 999 0019 or email sales@firechiefglobal.com.

    The information contained within this blog is provided solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions based upon this information, we advise the reader to consult any and all relevant statutory or regulatory guidance and where felt necessary to consult a qualified fire or industry regulation professional. The use or reliance on any information contained herein is solely at the reader’s risk.