Preventing rooftop fires

rooftop fire
Rooftop fire in Seattle 2019

This is the time of year when rooftop use and rooftop fires are highest. Please be mindful this summer when using rooftop grills, heaters and other amenities. Improperly discarded smoking materials and grilling are two of the main causes for fires on rooftops. Both are preventable.

Smoking on rooftops

Even when smoking is not allowed on multi-residential building rooftops, fire Investigators frequently find cigarette butts in planter boxes and in garbage cans. It is important to never discard cigarettes in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves or other things that could ignite easily. A small cigarette butt in dry conditions can turn into a major fire.

Steps to help reduce the chance of such fires include the following:

  • Carelessly discarded cigarettes and other smoking materials can easily start a fire in dry conditions. Extinguish smoking materials before you leave area
  • Douse smoking materials in water before tossing out
  • Make sure proper cigarette disposal canisters are available in areas where smoking is allowed

Preventing grill fires.

Whether using a grill in an apartment or condo common area or in your personal outdoor area, consider these fire prevention and safety tips before lighting the grill. 

Setting up:

  • Barbecue grills are designed for outdoor use only. Never barbecue in an enclosed area – dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) can accumulate and be deadly. If you suspect CO poisoning, call 9-1-1.
  • Set-up your grill on a flat surface in an open area at least three feet away from buildings, overhead combustible surfaces, dry leaves and brush.
  • Make sure the grease trap is empty and clean and that grilling parts are firmly in place.
  • For propane grills, make sure the hose connection is tight and check the hoses for leaks. This is especially important when using the grill for the first time in a long time.

During use:

  • Never leave grills unattended while cooking.
  • Keep a three-foot zone around the grill where children and pets aren’t allowed.
  • Do not leave starter fluid, lighters or matches within the reach of children.
  • Use the proper tools. Long handled barbecue utensils and flame retardant mitts will prevent burns from heat and flame.
  • For charcoal grills, avoid adding lighter fluid after the coals are lit.

Cleaning up:

  • For propane grills, turn the grill and fuel cylinder off immediately after grilling.
  • For charcoal grills, allow coals to cool for 48 hours before disposing. If you are not able to wait, douse coals with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place coals in plastic, paper or wooden containers; place in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid.

Heaters and fire pits

Combustibles that are too close to a rooftop fire pit or other heat source can cause a fire.

  • Keep a three foot-zone around all fire pits and other heat sources on rooftops.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.

If a fire starts on a rooftop, evacuate as quickly as possible and call 911 from a safe location.