An Ottawa County fire chief has a warning for all West Michigan residents, after responding to multiple fires sparked by the same mistake.

“What we’ve been starting to see out here is the discarding of fire pit ashes into trash cans,” said Georgetown Township Fire Chief Dan Hamming.

Hamming said a July 23 fire that gutted a home on Briar Lane was one of eight blazes his department handled this year that was caused by ashes that were improperly disposed of.

“We had one resident say that I put my hand on it and it was cool,” Hamming recollected.

Ashes that appear cool on the surface can remain hot at their center.

“Those type of ashes can lay there dormant for 24, 36, to 48 hours,” explained Hamming.

Dumping those ashes into a garbage can made of a petroleum-based plastic and filled with other plastic and paper products is a recipe for fire. Since many homeowners keep their garbage cans in the garage or alongside their house, the fire has time to grow before a homeowner notices it.

Hot grills positioned close to a home also pose a risk; the radiant heat can ignite vinyl siding.

“What we want to do is get the word out to not only Georgetown Township residents, but to West Michigan: be careful with your fire pit, fireplace ashes,” advised Hamming.

The fire chief says the safest way to dispose of ashes is to dump them in a bucket filled with water and let the mix sit outside for a couple of days. Another method is to dig a hole and bury the ashes, Hamming said.


Fire Safety Online Resources:

National Fire Protection Association – Overall fire problem

National Fire Protection Association – Home grill fires