Barbecues (BBQs) are a fun way to cook outside, but they can easily get out of control. Follow our advice on how to have a safe BBQ; from where to use them, how to use them and what to do when you’ve finished using them.

Where to have a barbecue

BBQs are best used:

  • in your garden and away from your home
  • a safe distance away from anything that could catch fire (e.g. sheds, trees, bushes, compost bins etc)
  • placed on a flat surface that won't catch alight e.g. stone or paving slabs.

Things to avoid when having a barbecue

  • Putting them on top of something flammable. The bottom of the BBQ can get very hot and easily burn what’s underneath it.
  • It’s not safe to have a BBQ on your balcony. These spaces are often enclosed, meaning fire could easily spread to your home or houses around you.
  • We do not recommend using BBQs at the beach or in the countryside. There are some restrictions on where you can use BBQs, so please check local signage before using them.

Using a disposable barbecue

If you’re using a disposable BBQ away from your home, please be careful. They have been the cause of a large number of wildfires in recent years. In 2020, 171 of our firefighters spent 70 hours putting out a fire in Kingswear, Devon, caused by a disposable BBQ.

Lighting your BBQ

  • Always follow the guidance that comes with your BBQ for recommendations on how to light it safely.
  • Never use petrol, white spirit, paraffin or other flammable liquids to light your BBQ.
  • Only use enough charcoal to cover the base of your BBQ. A depth of about five centimetres (two inches) is sufficient for cooking.

Once your BBQ is lit

  • Stay with your BBQ at all times. Never leave it unattended.
  • Make sure you have a bucket of water or sand nearby to put the BBQ out quickly if it gets out of control.
  • Keep children, pets, and anyone who’s had a few alcoholic drinks, away from the BBQ.
  • Don’t use petrol, paraffin, or white spirit on your BBQ.

Once you've finished with your BBQ

Coals and BBQ containers can stay hot for hours after you’ve finished cooking. You can cool your BBQ down by using water or a bucket of sand.

If you’re using a disposable BBQ, make sure that it has completely cooled down before attempting to move it. You can pour water or sand over it to help speed this up. Don’t put the BBQ or burnt charcoal in your car or tent. When BBQs cool, they release carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.

If you have a gas BBQ

Take care when turning gas BBQs on and off:

  •  Make sure that the valve is sealed correctly with no leaks (you can test this using soapy water).
  •  Make sure the fire is extinguished when removing the gas valve and that the gas is off before removal.

When putting out a gas BBQ:

  • Turn the gas supply off first, then the BBQ control. This will stop any gas leaking.
  • Don’t use a gas BBQ if you suspect a gas leak.
  • Make sure your BBQ is correctly serviced and all joints are tightened, safe and secure.
  • Store gas cylinders outside and away from direct sunlight and frost. Don’t store more gas cylinders than you need.

What to do if there’s a fire

If your BBQ gets out of control, call the fire service (999).

If your clothing catches fire, use the ‘Stop, drop and roll’ method.

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