Home safe and sound - summer fire safety

Tyne and Wear Fire Service has pulled together its flame proof barbecue guide to keeping you on the right side of the coals.

Phil Clark, Area Manager at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, says: “Most of our tips are common sense. By far the biggest danger is the use of flammable liquids to light the barbecue. We have had a couple of occasions where people have poured petrol onto the charcoal in an effort to get it going and the reaction has, not surprisingly, been violent and highly dangerous. Prepare well in advance and light the charcoal early. Most of all enjoy yourself safely.”


Gas or solid fuel barbecues, which use fossil fuels such as wood or coal produce carbon monoxide (CO) and sadly each year there are reports of deaths or serious injuries from CO poisoning within enclosed spaces, including tents and caravans. 



One incident in a block of Tyneside flats saw seven people and a six month baby rescued when a cloud of gas released from a propane barbecue cylinder combusted. It’s thought the gas came into contact with a lit cigarette where the barbecue was being held.



Tyne and Wear Fire Service advise barbecues of any type must only be used in open air spaces with ample ventilation and should never be used indoors or within tents or caravans. Even when they appear to be extinguished there is still a real danger of CO poisoning from smouldering remains, which should either be doused in water or left to burn out in the open air, away from any combustible materials, people or grassland. Caravanners should have gas powered appliances serviced regularly and ensure that they have audible CO detectors fitted within their caravans. 


Patience is the key to starting off your barbecue – it’s all too tempting to give the coals a poke and a helping hand, but take a step back and let the right tools do the job and never use flammable liquids to light or accelerate a barbecue.

  • If the weather suddenly turns – which let’s face it, is highly likely, don’t take the barbecue indoors or into a tent. In recent years some people have sadly succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of this.
  • Keep a bucket of sand, water or a hose nearby. 
  • Douse ashes with water after use, or empty them onto bare, clear soil – do not discard into dustbins or wheelie bins. 
  • Never use any type of barbecue indoors or in a poorly ventilated space as a source of warmth.

When using a gas barbecue:

  • Store gas cylinders outside and away from direct sunlight and frost.
  • Turn off the gas supply first before turning off the barbecue. 
  • Change cylinders in the open air.