Discarded barbecue coals are to blame for an early-morning fire in South Carson City that left one family homeless and scorched a neighboring house Monday before being extinguished by firefighters.
"The whole fire started when the occupant of (607 Jackson Way) cleaned the ashes out of her barbecue Sunday night," said Battalion Chief Stacey Giomi. "She put the ashes into a plastic garbage can and put that into a shed that was adjoining her wooden deck."
Giomi said the ashes smoldered throughout the night, melting the plastic garbage can and catching the shed on fire, then the deck, before engulfing the living room of the home.
Homeowner Cindy Walker and her son escaped the home unharmed.
By the time the first of 10 emergency calls was received, neighbors could see flames.
"My wife saw 4-foot flames on the roof at 6:05 a.m.," said Leroy Winters, who has lived on the block for 32 years. "The boy was out there with the garden hose trying to put it out, but by that time it was too big."
Others reported smelling the smoke as early as late Sunday night.
Pat Linehan, who recently bought the home next to Winters, said when he awoke at 4:45 a.m. he smelled smoke, looked in his own garage, then assumed it was from wildfires in the area.
"I didn't see any smoke, but it was pretty dark at that time," Linehan said.
Giomi said when crews arrived about 50 percent of the house was engulfed in flames and the fire had jumped into the eaves of a neighboring home at 507 Jackson Way.
"So we had two house fires going at one time," he said.
Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the flame at 507 Jackson Way and kept water damage to the home minimal, Giomi said.
Unfortunately, they were only able to save one bedroom and the garage at 607 Jackson Way. The family car, which was parked in the garage, was also spared.
Giomi estimated damage for both structures at $150,000.
"We have fires like this four or five times a year because of improper disposal of ashes," he said. "Its something you can do a 100 times and you don't have a problem, but the 101st time everything is right. This is definitely something that is preventable."
Giomi said the safest way to dispose of fireplace and barbecue ashes is in a metal container, filled with water. Once the ashes are dumped in the water, they should be stirred thoroughly.
Standing across the street as crews worked, neighbor Linehan shook his head.
"You can have all the fire insurance in the world but you can't replace things like the kid's pictures," he said solemnly.