Man shares burn story from propane grill to warn others

A member of our FOX family in Philadelphia says he's lucky to be alive. He's sharing his story of suffering burns all over his body from a propane grill malfunction. He hopes it will warn you to stay safe using propane grills.

More than 16,000 people land in emergency rooms each year from grilling incidents, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"My daughter, taking me to the emergency room, holding my hand in the emergency room when I've never been more scared in my life. And my son, my 18-year-old son Brendan, changing my dressings," Erik Smith recalls of the aftermath of his accident.


Smith says he fired up his backyard propane grill on the 4th of July weekend, like he always had. But he says noticed it wasn't heating up enough.

"When I put my hand on the handle, I just heard a rush of propane come at me. And then in milliseconds, nothing but a wall of flames," he described the moment.

Smith says he doesn't know what caused it to happen.

"My face was burned, first degree only, thankfully. My left arm and both my legs, you can see some of the pictures, they're second degree," he said of his injuries.

Harris County Fire Marshall Laurie Christensen says firefighters see grilling incidents every year, and urges you to take safety precautions.

"Always have the lid open, have the top off, because what's going to happen is that gas builds up, and most of us have the electric, automatic starter. Or I know poeple who go out and they use a lighter to light it," said Christensen.

She says don't use a grill indoors or next to a home.

"Carbon monoxide and gasses can come up into the eaves of your house," she said.

And Christensen suggests checking the hose for leaks.

"Take some soapy water and pour it over that assembly hose, that black hose that connects to the cylinder. Check and see if there's a leak in there and that little bubble will come up," she said.


Smith says the incident has taught him to make safety checks before grilling.

"What I'll do every time moving forward that I never did before, I inspect the hoses, I check the tank, I check it all out," he said.

The Fire Marshal also cautions you to keep the lid open even after turning off the gas, so fumes won't build up under the hood. She says to keep the grill clean because food residue and grease can catch fire. And she says to keep children at least three feet away, but teach them these safety precautions, too.

You can find more safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission here.