Chris and Jo Fowler next to damage caused by a BBQ fire
A Victorian family of three has joined firefighters in calling for everyone to check their barbecues before and after use this AFL Grand Final long weekend.
Chris and Jo Fowler, and their son Liam, know just how important barbecue safety is having faced a ‘frightening’ early morning wake up to a sounding smoke alarm in their Merricks family home on 5 July this year.
The barbecue was used to cook dinner earlier that night and was accidentally left on, subsequently starting a house fire inside the wall cavity at approximately 4am.
“Jo woke me up after hearing the smoke alarms sounding and the smoke led us to the barbecue where we could see that I’d accidentally turned the flames to high, rather than off,” Chris said.
“We were able to safely switch the barbecue off and call Triple Zero (000). Our family was fortunate to have a working smoke alarm and get out safely.”
“CFA firefighters located the fire inside the wall cavity and contained it quickly which limited the damage and saved our home.
“If the fire had around 15 more minutes, it would have taken hold of the entire timber house.”
Chris said he’d never considered that a barbecue or house fire could happen in their home, and since the incident, he’s made some very important changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
“Every time I light up the barbecue, I say, ‘gas on’ and ‘gas off’ aloud, to help me remember and so people around me hear that I’ve done it,” he said.
“More importantly, we’ve made a home fire escape plan in addition to our standard bushfire plan.
“We’ve learned fires can happen anywhere, any time.
“Every time I hear about a house fire I’m reminded of how lucky we were to have working smoke alarms installed, otherwise the outcome could have been far, far worse.”
Across Victoria, CFA responded to more than 190 barbecue fires within CFA’s response area between 1 July 2021 and 30 June 2022.
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan knows this weekend’s footy festivities will make for perfect conditions for a ‘snag on the barbie’, however he reminded Victorians to stay fire safe while barracking for their favourite team.
“Taking the time to do a few quick safety checks could save your home and family’s life,” he said.
“Checking the connection on a gas barbecue is simple; just spray the hose and regulator connections with soapy water before firing up the barbecue.
“Soap bubbles will appear if gas is escaping; if this occurs, turn off the gas and correct or replace the connections.
“And finally, don’t forget to switch the barbecue off at the cylinder when you’re finished with it as well.”
Barbecue safety tips:
- If a fire occurs, turn off the gas at the cylinder or meter, but only if safe to do so. In most cases this should allow the fire to extinguish itself. If you’re unable to extinguish the fire safely, call Triple Zero (000).
- Check the LP gas cylinder on your barbecue before you turn it on. A cylinder must not be refilled if it hasn’t been tested for more than 10 years or if the cylinder has been damaged.
- Have your gas cylinder tested and ensure you use a licensed gasfitter.
- You can exchange LP gas cylinders at a reputable supplier.
- Be aware all newly manufactured LPG gas appliances, including outdoor patio barbecues and cylinders, are fitted with a safer gas connection to prevent gas from being released if the connection is not properly fitted.
- Check the hose to make sure it has not deteriorated.
- Check the connections to make sure they are tight and that the O rings are in good condition and have not cracked or split.
- Check for gas leaks by spraying soapy water on the connections and hoses. Bubbles will appear if there is a leak when you turn on the gas.
- Use your barbecue in a clear space. Never use it indoors or in a confined area and ensure there is adequate clearance from walls, fences, and other property.
- Cook with barbecue utensils and wear an apron to protect yourself from hot fat.
- Remove excess fat from the barbecue after each use to prevent fires.
- Do not use barbecues in windy conditions as the burners may blow out, risking a gas leak.