Ottawa Fire Services is warning residents to maintain their barbecues, after a propane tank caught fire over the weekend. It happened Sunday evening on Burnaby Drive in Stittsville.  One person was burned and taken to hospital.  It's believed a buildup of grease may have caused the fire. Barbecue fires are not that uncommon.  Ottawa Fire Services say it responds to about 1 or 2 a week!  And, for the most part, they are completely preventable with proper maintenance.

Lynn Norton is in the market for a new barbecue at Capital Appliance and BBQ in the city’s southwest end, after his caught fire Saturday night.

"I went to turn off the barbecue,” he says, “and I noticed some flame right at the knob and quickly dowsed it with my beer,” he laughs.

Norton can laugh, but a person in a house in Stittsville Sunday evening was taken to hospital after neighbors report his BBQ seemed to explode. 

Ottawa Fire Services says the issue is usually a buildup of grease.  Incident Safety Officer Gerry Gill explains that propane tanks rarely explode because they are fitted with safety release valves.  He says if the tank over heats, the venting gas comes out through the valve and that can catch fire if the barbecue is turned on.

“Typically what we see is decks and the back of homes catch fire,” he says, “and if there are any combustible materials nearby, they also catch fire, which is why we recommend placing your barbecue at least one meter from your home.”

Gill says regular maintenance is also critical.

“If you don't clean barbecue regularly, the grease will catch on fire, and can melt those lines and that is what will cause a fire and cause that pressure to release as well.”

Regular maintenance is key to preventing a fire.  The more you use it, the more often you have to clean it.  Ottawa Fire Services says there are people who wait years to clean their barbecues and those are the ones they end up visiting for a fire call.”

Chuck Shabsove, the owner of Capital Apppliance and BBQ, figures insects inside one of the venture tubes probably caused the flashback that sparked Lynn Norton’s fire.  He recommends using a special brush cleaner to clean those.

“You basically insert it,” Shabsove says as he demonstrates, “and bring it to the end of the tube and pull it out as you’re turning it and oftentimes you pull out spider nest, basically.”

He says people need to check their drip pans regularly, too.

“It can only collect so much grease,” he says, “but it’s easy for grease to catch fire and then you’re in another scary situation.”

And every time you change your tank, do the soap test on the lines.

“You want to spray all over your connections,” says Incident Safety Officer Gerry Gill, “and when you turn your tank on, if there are bubbles or if you smell propane, that indicates you're having a leak.”

If your BBQ does catch fire, Gill says, “if you're able, close the lid and shut off the gas.  It should burn itself out.”

 But, don't hesitate to call 911; that could save your home and your life.