Balcony Barbeques - Donít Get Your Fingers Burnt

With more people than ever living in flats without communal gardens, balcony barbequing is taking off. But is it safe?

Apartments are springing up everywhere. Current estimates put the number of high rise flats at 45,000 in London alone. Flat living has never been so popular and for many people, particularly those living in city blocks, a balcony is their only outside space. And what do we all want to do outside in the summer - barbeque of course! Now balcony barbeques are being marketed as ‘the perfect solution for the space-conscious cook’ and are being sold by several online retailers. According to Firebox the space-saving barbeques they sell have been so popular they are now out of stock, although as we went to press they were still available from Prezzy Box.

But is barbequing on a balcony really a safe option? Lighter fuel, matches and hot coals are potentially an extremely dangerous combination but in a small space, several storeys above ground level, flat owners should think twice before cooking outside. According to the London Fire Brigade, since April this year there have been 11 barbecue fires, including one balcony fire and last summer 89 fires were caused by barbecues, including six fires on balconies. As a result, the LFB advises strongly against balcony barbeques and urges anyone considering buying a balcony barbeque to think again.

Mark Hazelton, Community Safety Group Manager for London Fire Brigade, believes the products could prove to be dangerous, especially as those bought online are seemingly being marketed without any clear fire safety advice outlined on web pages.
“Balconies are often enclosed and it’s easy for barbecues to get out of control and cause a fire which can then spread to other properties,” says Mark. .” If you’re planning a barbecue it’s important to place the barbecue on level ground and well away from anything that could catch fire, such as fences, overhanging trees and sheds – or in this case, other people’s balconies. It’s vital that you never leave your barbecue unattended and make sure it’s completely out once finished with. People sometimes just leave them smouldering and that’s often when the problems start.”

It is also worth considering that if you do inadvertently start a fire that damages your flat or a neighbour’s property, you may find your insurance policy will not cover you. The terms of your lease may also mean, in the case of a gas barbeque, that there could be restrictions on flammable liquids on the premises. So our advice is, as ever, to read the small print. If you are really desperate for that char-grilled burger it may ultimately make more sense to buy a disposable barbeque and take it to your local park where there is likely to be an area specially designated for barbequing – safely.

BARBECUE SAFETY TIPS

Wherever you decide to barbeque this summer, we recommend you follow this advice.

  • Place barbecues on level ground so they don’t tip over.
  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies.
  • Only use barbecue fuel or fire lighters - not petrol or paraffin.
  • Check the barbecue is cool before you try to move it or dispose of it.
  • Never put spent ash in a dustbin – it will be hotter than you think and could cause a fire.
  • If you are cooking with gas, always store cylinders outside, away from direct sunlight and frost (check your lease to make sure this is allowed).
  • Turn the gas tap off before changing the cylinder.
  • After cooking, turn the gas supply off first, then the barbecue control to prevent a gas leak.
  • Make sure all joints are tightened, safe and secure.