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Madison Fire Department
Committed to recruiting and retaining a qualified, diverse, inclusive and safe fire workforce.

Safety EDUCATION

Outdoor & Open Burning

The Madison General Ordinance and the State Fire Code prohibit outdoor and open burning without a permit. A license is required for the kindling or maintaining of an open fire or a fire on any public street, alley, road, or other public or private ground. Go to Open Burning License Information (PDF).

For supplemental information on campfires, outdoor fireplaces, clay fireplaces, LP-assisted ignition fireplaces, home-built fireplaces, cooking fires, charcoal & LP-gas grills and other open-flame cooking devices, go to Outdoor & Open Burning Informational Bulletin (PDF).

For a summary of information specific to grills (open-flame cooking devices), go to Grills - City of Madison Ordinance (PDF).

Grill Safety Tips

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and City of Madison Fire Department recommend the following grill safety tips:

General Grill Safety Tips

  • NEVER use a grill indoors (home, tent, vehicle, etc.). The toxic gas produced by charcoal or gas grilling are extremely dangerous and can kill without warning.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Perform an annual safety inspection prior to the first seasonal use of a grill.
  • Never allow children to use the grill. Create a safety zone of at least 3 feet around the grill and place the grill a safe distance from play areas.
  • Place the grill at least 10 feet from combustible materials such as siding, decks, tree branches, etc.
  • Avoid Burns: Use proper utensils with long handles that allow the chef plenty of clearance from the heat and flames.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Periodically remove grease buildup from the grill surfaces and the trays below the grill so the grease is not ignited by the hot grill.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and accessible.

Gas (LP or propane) Grill Safety Tips

  • Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, grease, or other debris.
  • Check grill hoses and fittings for cracking, brittleness, holes, scratches, or leaks. Replace as necessary.
  • Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. Install a heat shield if necessary.
  • If you smell gas when you reconnect the grill to the LP gas container check for leaks following the manufacturer's instructions. If you detect or suspect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don't attempt to light the grill until the leak has been fixed.
    • In many cases, a light soap and water solution applied to the fittings and hoses can help detect gas leaks by the appearance of bubbles from the escaping gas.
  • Keep lighted cigarettes, matches, or open flames away from a leaking grill.
  • Do not attempt to repair the tank valve or appliance yourself. See an LP gas dealer or qualified appliance repair person.
  • Consumers should use caution when storing LP gas containers. Keep containers upright and do not store them near the grill or indoors. Never store flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.
  • LP gas containers should be transported in a secure upright position – never keep a filled tank in a hot car or trunk.

Note: All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up.

Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

  • Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments.
    • Never use a grill indoors!
  • Make sure charcoal has been completely extinguished before disposing of the ashes and storing the grill – ashes may reignite 48 to 72 hours after use.
  • If using a fluid to start the charcoal grill, use only starter fluid intended for this purpose. It is extremely dangerous to use any other combustible liquid to start the coals.
  • Never apply charcoal lighter (starter) fluid after the charcoal has been lit.
  • Store starter fluid away from heat sources and out of reach from children.