SPECIAL REPORT: Grills Could Become Backyard Bombs
Updated: Thursday, January 31 2013, 11:20 PM EST
COLUMBUS -- Grilling out is a pastime for many, but one distraction can turn the fun into a potentially deadly experience, especially during the winter.
ESPN anchor Hannah Storm learned that lesson the hard way last December.
"I yelled inside to my 15-year-old daughter, who was in the kitchen, 'mommy is on fire,"' Storm said. "You have to call 911."
Storm says she was trying to re-ignite her propane grill on that chilly day after the flame had gone out. She shut off the gas, but when she tried reigniting it, all she saw was a wall of fire, then a huge explosion that blew the doors off the grill.
Ohio State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers says propane gas is heavier than air, so even when you turn it off, excess amounts of it may settle at the bottom of the grill. And in the winter, colder temperatures lower the pressure of the propane tanks; meaning it doesn't take much for the flame to be snuffed.
"If you come out to re-light the grill, you would then have an explosion because of that propane that's consolidated in that area," Flowers said.
Storm says she was lucky she escaped from her grill explosion with her life, but the incident left plenty of scars.
"My skin was badly burned," Storm said. "There were red, actual flame marks on my neck. You could tell where the flames had been licking up on my neck and I was very disfigured without hair, eyebrows, eye lashes. It was a sight to behold, let me tell you."
Flowers says propane itself is very safe, as long as it's used properly. For example, if your flame goes out, turn the propane off and wait at least 5 minutes before reigniting, which should let the excess gas air out.
Manufacturers deliberately add a chemical to propane to give it a rotten smell if there's a leak. So if you continue to smell the gas after the tank has been closed for 5 minutes or more, call 911 and let the pros take care of it.
Perhaps most importantly, Flowers says, stay focused while grilling.
"Keep an eye on it," he said. "Don't walk away from it. Make sure it's operating properly."
For more safety information about propane grilling, click here.
Reporter: Adam Aaro