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‘Do-It-Yourself’ is Great, Provided You Include Safety Yourself

June 1, 2012

In the latest issue of Popular Mechanics, there is an article on how to build your own smoker from a 55-gallon drum.  Popular Mechanics was very cautious to point out that you DO NOT use lighter fluid inside this apparatus.  Good move!

There are a lot of do-it-yourselfers out there building barbecues and smokers for outdoor grilling.  In some cases the DIY design is an improvement over existing grilling technology (I’m all for that).  In some cases the design is a way to grill more food for larger crowds (I like that idea too).  Whatever we design or build, we need to remember that such designs should NOT rely on lighter fluid to start the fire.  Lighter fluid is a combustible liquid that expands when ignited.  Large home-made barbecues are usually made from metal barrels or tanks with little give.  When lighter fluid fumes ignite inside that metal tank, the expansion has to go somewhere and that’s usually toward the person lighting the fire.

News reports indicate that this Memorial Day weekend, a man in Maryland converted a 270-gallon barrel into a home barbecue and apparently used lighter fluid to start his fire.  That large, enclosed container apparently became a bit of a bomb when combustible lighter fluid was ignited.  This gentleman was burned over 50% of his body with first and second degree burns.

Aside from the fire hazards, some lighter fluid additives leave a bad taste on your food.  Many grilling tips recommend that you use a charcoal chimney (like the Weber 7416 Rapid Fire Chimney Starter) or an electric charcoal starter (like the Grill Pro Electric Charcoal Starter) to get your charcoal fire started.  There are many other makes and models of charcoal chimneys and electric charcoal starters.  A little shopping will help you find the best option.  Both of these items avoid the hazard (and chemical flavor) of lighter fluid.  Either one would probably have helped ensure the Memorial Day holiday was more fun in Maryland.

If you have questions or concerns about your barbecue, grill or smoker, call us before you light it up at 466-4602.  You can e-mail me at or you can post your question here on this blog.

News story from Maryland


From → Fire Prevention

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