June 21, 2007
Each year almost 2,000 gas grills erupt into flames, injuring about 300 people, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Some accidents happen when consumers store spare propane tanks – often dangerously overfilled – under their grills. The problem – gas from the extra tanks can leak out, ignite and create a fireball.
The scenario is a typical one. A consumer brings a spare propane tank to their local gas station for filling. The local gas station attendant, often untrained in filling procedures, overfills the propane tank. The consumer, not knowing of the hazardous situation, brings the propane tank to their residence and stores the spare cylinder underneath the barbecue. The consumer begins their regular cooking. In turn, the spare cylinder gets heated and releases propane gas underneath the barbecue. The gas ignites due to its contact with the cooking flame. An explosion results engulfing the unsuspecting consumer in flames. While such a scenario seems unlikely, literally hundreds of Americans are seriously injured or killed in such incidents every year.
In the future, such accidents may become less common thanks to the civil justice system. Successful product liability lawsuits, some brought by the Law Offices of Wylie Aitken, are forcing manufacturers to reconsider their position and place warning stickers on grills and propane tanks telling consumers not to let service stations overfill these canisters and not to store extra tanks under the grill. Cylinder exchange programs are limiting the risks of over-filling.
The problem, however, still remains. Although some manufacturers have taken measures with newer barbecue grill models and cylinders, the fact remains that a danger exists for the estimated 50 million propane grills already in existence. As such, as you prepare for the upcoming holiday, please be aware not to store any spare cylinder underneath a barbecue and be wary of the local service station’s ability to fill your cylinder correctly.