October 4, 2005
Unfortunately, its a case we've seen before: a family improperly disposed of charcoal, which ignited a fire. They grilled just hours before the fire erupted, and the materials didn't seem combustible, however firefighters determined the coals to be the cause.
Grilling is a family staple of picnics, but has caused several fires in our area throughout the years. Local fire departments have several safety tips on disposing of charcoal and ash.
"I would wait a couple hours to make sure that the coals have cooled down, that you've got them out of the firebox or out of the charcoaled grill and wet them down before you dispose of them to make sure they are completely out," said Charlottesville Fire Marshall Steve Walton.
The safest place to store charcoal and ash is in a metal container.
"With a metal container you seal it up and cut-off the air supply and eventually it will go out," said Walton.
Fire does not profile and can strike anyone anywhere.
"It could have been my apartment [or] one of the ones above me. It's really close to home," said a neighbor.
Which is why Charlottesville and Albemarle have fire codes. Open flame grills cannot sit on balconies and must be 10 feet from combustible structures in apartment buildings.
"There are exceptions to that and [those are] one or two family dwellings and also any building that may have an automatic sprinkler system that protects the balcony area," said Walton.
Restrictions on gas grills are even stricter--they can never be on balconies and must be 10 feet from any building structure--but like charcoal grills, houses and duplexes are exceptions and do not have any restrictions.