John Herrera’s life changed in a matter of seconds. It was February, and the Miami lawyer was preparing a few steaks on his gas grill while most North Carolina homeowners only dream of doing in the middle of winter.
“I’ve done it a million times before,” he decided. His wife, on the other hand, had attempted to light the grill an hour earlier by turning all five burner knobs up to maximum position without ever igniting it. “She felt that if she shut the lid immediately, it would speed things up,” Herrera said of his wife’s actions. As soon as he depressed the starter button to start burning the grill, a ball of fire exploded from the accumulated gas. Herrera was burned on 20% of his body and suffered second and third-degree burns. He stated, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through this.”
What exactly happened to Herrera is only one example of gas or charcoal grills catching fire in the United States every year — an average of 10,600 per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Pitmasters and grill experts from across the country have seen these harsh conditions and had their own disasters. They share their strategies for maintaining a barbecue in good working order as well as preventing fires in your backyard.