On one of the biggest grilling weekends of the summer, the Madison Fire Department said hot coals were to blame for a garage fire on North Baldwin Street Saturday night.
Assistant Chief Clay Christenson said his Station One crew was called out to 19 and 21 North Baldwin Street at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Officials said a man living there woke up to see the fire, and then tried to put it out with a small fire extinguisher. When those efforts weren’t effective, he proceeded to remove a number of items from the garage before crews arrived.
"Even a detached garage, you think it's all isolated, but when they get really rolling too, you can never tell how separated it is from the building or something like that where you can get the heat to ignite the other buildings near it," Christenson said.
No one was hurt in the fire, but the estimated damage totaled $20,000.
Christenson said coals were taken from a grill and put into a plastic trash container leaning up against the garage. Christenson said those coals had been cooling off for about an hour and a half, but he suggested letting them sit for at least 12 hours before disposing of them. He said he believed there was also a bag of trash in the container among the coals.
Christenson said not all of the calls are this extreme, but the department handles enough calls connected to grilling over the summer to remind people how to properly extinguish hot coals.
"As you do grill, you get a little careless or you get a little complacent with the way they do things, and little things like this do remind us," Christenson said. "Unfortunately, it has to be someone's garage that gets burnt down with it."
The Madison Fire Department stresses the following safety tips to anyone planning to grill out:
• Make sure charcoal has been completely extinguished before disposing of the ashes and storing the grill. Ashes may reignite 48 to 72 hours after use.
• Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. And never use a grill indoors!
• If using a fluid to start the charcoal grill, use only starter fluid intended for this purpose. It is extremely dangerous to use any other combustible liquid to start the coals.
• Never apply charcoal lighter (starter) fluid after the charcoal has been lit.