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Aug 26, 2020

Grilling is a beloved outdoor cooking tradition, and even under our current local fire restrictions (see the 7/20/2020 notice) and health mandates under the Covid-19 pandemic, it can still be safe and enjoyable. Whether you are using a charcoal or propane grill, experienced or just learning, your knowledge of safe practices can prevent serious injury and property damage. And it will probably help your flame-licked food taste more delicious!

If you are only going to remember one basic thing from this article filled with safe grilling tips, please make it this:  Don’t place your grill too close to anything that burns, or it may just become a fire hazard. 

But, there is a little bit more to safe grilling, so please stick with us and read the rest! With 10,600 home fires started by grills and 19,700 visits to the emergency room due to grill injuries each year in the United States, please heed the following recommendations for super safe grilling.

  1. Start from good and clean. Make sure the grill is in good working order and clean of any past buildup of grease or other crud. If a grill has not been in use recently, remove any collected debris from inside (e.g., animal nests!) and scrape away any layers of grease build up. If you are operating a new device, read the instruction manual. For a propane grill, check the gas connector hardware and visually inspect the gas tank hose for cracks or damage. Twist open the valve on the gas tank and use your nose to smell for any leaking propane, or cover the gas tank hose with soapy water and look for bubbles to form, as demonstrated in this video. If you have a gas leak that you cannot stop, call 9-1-1.
  2. Setup matters. Keep a clear three-foot zone around your gas or charcoal grill. A buffer of space will reduce the possibility of melting/burning materials and structures around the grill, and in the event of a grill fire, will prevent the spread of fire to structures or flammable materials. Keep the grill well away from your home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.

Many structure fires are started by people operating barbeque grills on balconies, porches, courtyards or patios, where they did not leave an ample buffer away from flammable materials. If you live in an apartment or condo, check your lease or condo association for rules about grills or grilling locations. Never operate a grill indoors or near an open window as to prevent deadly carbon monoxide gas from filling the area.

  1. Ignite with care. With a gas grill, always open the lid before turning on the gas and igniting. When preparing charcoal for a grill, use the charcoal lighter fluid according to the instructions on the bottle. Never add lighter fluid to charcoal that has already been ignited! Keep matches, gas lighters, and lighter fluid away from children.
  2. Defend the grill. Protect yourself and others from burns. Never leave a hot grill unattended. Maintain the three-foot buffer zone around the grill and prevent children and pets from entering the area to prevent thermal burns. Use long-handled grilling tools, and push up any long sleeves to prevent your clothing from encountering the flames. Consider wearing a flame-retardant apron to protect your clothing from burns and stains.
  3. Cool off and clean up. When you are finished grilling on a charcoal grill, let the coals cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container. Then clean the grate, consider using a brush without metal bristles; the metal bristles can break off and be ingested accidently by humans or pets, causing serious internal injuries. Remove the grease or fat buildup from the trays below the grill.


More References:

Did you Know?


  • You can sign up for a station tour. Great for small groups.
  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

Media Contact

  • Julie Happy
  • 509-892-4155

Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”