Why Did My Traeger Catch Fire? (2 main reasons & solutions)

Pellet grills like Traeger seem to be pretty safe. If you’re new to using your Traeger, or even if you’ve been using it a while, you may be wondering if it can catch fire or if you already had that happen, you’re asking why did my Traeger catch fire?

I own one, but also did some research, and here’s what I learned:

Pellet grills like Traeger can catch fire, caused either by too many pellets in the firepot or too much grease on the drip tray. It’s important to keep your pellets dry as moisture can cause them to clump and feed improperly into the auger and firepot. Also, use a liner on your drip tray and change it every 1-3 cooks. 

But there’s much more to know about why your Traeger caught fire.

Just keep reading!

Can a pellet grill catch on fire?

Yes is the short answer. Just like other grills, pellet grills use fire to cook food. Any time there is fire involved, there is a risk of fire.

And a little flare-up, because your grease tray is too heavily coated, is probably not worth panicking over.

If your pellet grill does catch fire, there are a few tips you can follow. With these tips, you can not only determine the cause, but you can prevent it from happening again.

But I would only follow these steps if the fire seems dangerous and out of control. Because once you go through these steps, you won’t quickly be able to return to grilling.

First and foremost, make sure you are following the manufacturer’s directions when operating your pellet grill.

Did you just buy a Traeger? If so, this recent article walks you through everything you need to know about using your new Traeger, including 2 crucial safety tips.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Now, what do you do if your Traeger catches fire?

  1. DON’T PANIC

When we panic, we don’t think clearly. When we’re not thinking clearly, we make bad decisions that could be dangerous for us and those around us.

Also, if you’re with other people and you start to panic, they might start to panic, too.

  1. CLOSE THE LID TO THE GRILL AND HOPPER 

Closing the grill and the hopper will deprive the fire of oxygen. Without oxygen, the flame will die out. 

  1. MOVE THE GRILL AWAY FROM WALLS OR FLAMMABLE OBJECTS

Don’t hurt yourself trying to move it. If the grill is not moveable, clear away whatever you can that poses a risk of fire. I keep my Traeger the recommended 18″ away from the back wall of my house. 

  1. UNPLUG THE GRILL

The last thing you want is for your grill fire to turn into an electrical fire. So flip the power switch off (don’t worry about the shutdown cycle for now) and unplug your Traeger.

  1. DON’T DOUSE WITH WATER

It seems like a natural move to throw water on something that’s on fire. However, that’s a bad move with pellet grills for 2 critical reasons:

  • This is an electrical appliance and water could cause permanent damage
  • Pouring water on any kind of grease fire causes the flaming oil to splatter and splash. This INCREASES the flames and will NOT extinguish them

If the fire seems out of control, a fire extinguisher is your best bet. But your Traeger will require extensive clean-up afterward. And whatever food is on the grill will need to be thrown away.

Does a Traeger have a flame or ever flare-up? 

Yes. Traegers DO use an open flame to generate heat. But, Traeger grills are designed so there are no flare-ups like you’d see on a gas or charcoal grill. That’s because there is a solid metal tray in between your grates and the flame.

So you should never see a flame in your Traeger.

That makes pellet grills more similar to convection ovens than traditional grills. Instead of electricity or gas as your heat source, Traegers use wood pellets as a heat source.

But, even though they use wood pellets, Traeger grills still aren’t considered a wood grill.

I know this can all be very confusing. Luckily, I wrote this recent article that talks about the differences between wood and charcoal grills.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Now a flare-up is a short burst of flame that results from fat dripping on hot coals. The fat can either be from the meat on the grill. But oily marinades that drip often cause this too.

This is a normal part of grilling and not something that needs to be extinguished.

In a traditional grill, like wood or charcoal, the best way of dealing with a flare-up is to just move the food to a different location on the grill.

You won’t see a flare-up on a Traeger, at least in terms of fat dripping on the open flame. That’s because, as I mentioned, the flame is below a solid metal drip pan.

However, if too much grease is coated on the drip pan, it IS possible for that to catch fire. For that reason, I cover my drip pan with aluminum foil. Then I simply change that every 1-3 cooks depending on how coated it gets.

How do you put out a Traeger fire?

If your Traeger catches fire, there are likely two reasons why it caught fire. Either it is a grease fire or there are too many pellets in the firepot.

In either instance, simply close the lid on both the grill and the hopper.

DO NOT use water or flour to put the fire out. Fire needs oxygen to burn. By closing the lids, you’ll deprive the fire of oxygen and it will burn itself out. (source)

Once you’ve put out the fire, take a look around the grill to determine the cause. Understanding the cause of the fire can help prevent the next one from happening.

Check the drip tray and the firepot.

Grease fires typically start on the drip tray and spread.

For that reason, as I mentioned above, I always cover my drip pan with aluminum foil. Then I simply change that foil every 1-3 cooks depending on how greasy it gets.

Now, admittedly, that does require a couple of layers of foil since the foil and the tray are not the same size. 

So if you’re the kind of person who likes the ultimate convenience (you did buy a Traeger, right?), check out these options on the Traeger website.

They make tray liners for all their models that are an exact fit. Just find your model and place your order directly on their website. As always, the Traeger website price will be the best price. Amazon isn’t cheaper.

Pellet fires are caused by a buildup of pellets in the firepot.

The culprit here is often pellets that are a little damp. This can happen simply by leaving pellets in your Traeger after you’re done for the day. Traeger always recommends removing any unused pellets from the hopper after each cook.

Luckily, they have a little hatch in back that makes that fairly easy to do.

Damp pellets can stick together and you can end up sending more into the firepot than is needed. They will smolder, and when they finally ignite, they can cause a pellet fire.

To avoid a pellet fire, just make sure to empty your hopper after each use. Now if you’re sure you’ll be grilling again in a day or 2, I wouldn’t worry about that. But if you’re unsure, take ’em out!

One of the nice things about using a Traeger is that you can grill veggies without worrying about them burning.

Traegers use indirect heat, so while your veggies may get overcooked if you aren’t paying attention, they won’t get blackened beyond belief.

If you are using a charcoal, gas, or wood grill, check out this recent article I wrote about cooking vegetables on the grill without burning them.

But even cooking them on a Traeger, the article is still helpful as I give you proper cook times and temps for all the veggies you’re likely to throw on a grill.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can a Traeger have a fire in the hopper?

Fires won’t start in the hopper, but if you have a pellet fire, it could move into the hopper if left unnoticed.

Unlike grease fires, a fire in the hopper isn’t because it is dirty. It’s because pellets aren’t falling properly into the auger. If pellets get stuck to the sides or stuck together, they may not fill the auger correctly. They’ll leave spaces in the pellets, making the grill think it needs more.

As a result, the pellets continue to feed, and eventually, you’ll end up with a pellet fire.

If this happens, just close the grill and hopper lids and let it burn out.

To prevent this kind of fire, shake the hopper or stir up the pellets every 30 minutes or so. And, of course, as I’ve mentioned above, don’t store your pellets in your Traeger between cooks.

Damage due to a grill fire is not usually covered under your warranty. Luckily, fires that happen in Traegers rarely leave the grill inoperable. However, if the damage is significant, Traeger sells replacement parts.

Can a Traeger explode?

Traeger grills are very sophisticated. They can connect to your home Wi-Fi and be controlled via the app. It even comes with its own temperature probe that allows you to monitor the status of the grill and your food.

But even with all of this sophistication, it still needs a human touch from time to time. Pellets can get stuck in the hopper, causing an excess of pellets to get dumped into the firebox.

This results in an over-firing. Which is a fancy way of saying pellet fire.

However, it is very unlikely that a Traeger will explode. Explosions are caused by a build-up of gas (obviously not possible with a Traeger) or a build-up of fire. Not likely if you cut off the oxygen by closing the lid to the grill and hopper.

However, if you follow the manual for your Traeger, you can easily avoid most problems. I know, I know. Reading manuals for anything is really boring.

So here are the highlights.

If you see smoke coming out of your hopper while you are cooking, make sure the fan is working properly and the grill is on a level surface. That’s easy to do because you’ll hear that familiar Traeger jet engine sound.

If the grill cuts itself off, double-check the firepot (once cool, obviously) to make sure it is not overflowing.

Do you know what is more likely to explode than a wood pellet grill?

Propane. Propane grills have the tanks right next to the heat. And sometimes, the igniter stops working and you have to use one of those long lighters to get it going.

If you have a propane grill also (as I do), check out this recent article. I get into a few crucial safety tips on propane grills, including 1 that most people don’t talk about.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about why your Traeger caught fire?

Fires that occur in Traeger grills are relatively minor. They are not difficult to put out. Simply smother them out by closing the lid on the hopper and the grill itself.

If your grill does catch fire, be sure to inspect the grill once the fire is out to determine the cause.

It was likely either a grease fire due to excessive build-up in your grease tray or a pellet fire due to a build-up of pellets in the firepot.

Keep your drip tray clean and your pellets dry to reduce the chance of fire.

Now if you’re anything like me, you own more than 1 grill.

I have my Traeger (Ironwood 650) but I also have a Texas trio which is a combo charcoal, propane, and smoker. I have a big yard, so I have them in different spots. That way, no matter where the party is, I’m ready to cook.

If you’re ready to up your grilling game, check out this recent article. In it, I compare every kind of grill and smoker out there. I give you all the pros and cons, the best brands, and the best options for every budget.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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