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Press Release State Fire Marshal Offers Labor Day Fire Safety Tips

Have a safe and happy Labor Day by keeping these tips in mind.
For immediate release:
  • Department of Fire Services

Media Contact for State Fire Marshal Offers Labor Day Fire Safety Tips

Jake Wark, Public Information Officer

A charcoal grill cooking food

StowState Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey today reminded Massachusetts residents to be cautious over the Labor Day Weekend when grilling, doing yard work, and engaging in other outdoor activities.

“Labor Day weekend is a great time to have a cookout, mow the lawn, or take care of projects around the house, but it’s important to stay aware of fire hazards,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “If you’re using grills, gasoline, or solvents, do it responsibly so you, your family, and your neighbors can have a safe and happy holiday weekend.”

Outdoor Cooking

Between 2016 and 2020, Massachusetts fire departments responded to 427 fires involving grills, hibachis, and barbecues.

  • Never use a grill indoors or leave a burning grill unattended.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet from the grill, and keep matches, lighters, and lighter fluid away from children.
  • Grills should always be kept at least 10 feet from the side of a building and out from underneath any porch, balcony, deck, or tree branches.
  • Don’t use a grill on porches, balconies, or fire escapes. Grills may be used on open first-floor decks or patios only if there is an outdoor stairway to the ground or the porch is at ground level.
  • Because propane can build up beneath the lid of a gas grill, open the lid before you light it. Turn off the burners and close the cylinder when done cooking.
  • Use only charcoal starter fluid for a charcoal grill or hibachi, not gasoline or kerosene, and never add fluid to burning briquettes or hot coals.
  • Allow coals to burn out completely and cool for 48 hours before disposal. If you must dispose of ashes before they are completely cooled, thoroughly soak them in water before placing them in a metal container.

Gasoline Transport, Storage, and Use

Between 2016 and 2020, 338 lawn mower fires caused one civilian death, three civilian injuries, four fire service injuries, and an estimated dollar loss of $1.6 million.

  • Use an approved container when transporting or storing gasoline, being sure to keep it tightly closed in a secure and upright position. When transporting the container in a vehicle, use the trunk or pick-up bed and keep the container away from passenger areas.
  • When filling a lawnmower, moped, or other machine, let the engine cool first. Gasoline vapors, including those from gasoline spilled on clothing, are highly flammable and can be ignited by a hot engine.
  • Keep gasoline far from all heat sources, including smoking materials, pilot lights, campfires, and grills.

Oily Rags

Oil-based paints, stains, and varnishes are popular for arts, crafts, and home improvement projects, but they pose a fire hazard – both on their own and when soaked into rags. These oils release heat as they dry, and the heat can be trapped in a pile of oily rags until it ignites.  Earlier this year, an early-morning fire that started with oily rags injured six firefighters and caused $500,000 in damage to a Lexington home.

  • Hang oily rags outside to dry or spread them out flat and weigh them down. Don’t leave them in a pile.
  • Once dry, place the rags in a metal container, fill it with water and detergent, and close the lid tightly. Keep the container in a cool place away from direct sunlight and other heat sources.
  • Dispose of the container during your city or town’s hazardous waste collection event.


Smoking remains the leading cause of fatal fires in Massachusetts. There is no safe way to smoke.

  • If you must smoke then use a heavy ashtray or a pail with water or sand for cigarette butts. Don’t flick them on the ground, where they can smolder and ignite mulch or debris, or grind them out on porches, steps, or planters.
  • Remember: Put it out. All the way. Every time.


Media Contact for State Fire Marshal Offers Labor Day Fire Safety Tips

Department of Fire Services 

The Department of Fire Services helps keep communities safe. We provide firefighter training, public education, fire prevention, code enforcement, licensing, fire investigation, hazardous material response, and emergency response.