During the month of June in 2021, Paul O’Brien, aged 47, decided to gather a small group of friends to enjoy a soccer game together. To enhance the experience, he prepared a scrumptious meal on a throwaway grill around one o’clock in the afternoon, dedicating approximately sixty minutes to this culinary endeavor.
Around midnight, just before retiring for the night, he disposed of the portable barbecue in the garbage. However, upon awakening, he discovered his residence completely consumed by fire, resulting in approximately $127,000 worth of destruction.
“The barbecue felt cold when I put it in the bin,” O’Brien said to the South West News Service. “I thought I knew how long the coals could smolder for. I was wrong.”
Around 5 a.m. in the morning, he was abruptly startled by a loud noise, causing him to awaken to the sound of his girlfriend’s distressing screams.
“Looking out of our bedroom, you could see the two kids’ bedrooms, and it was just bright orange,” Paul O’Brien remembered. “You could hear this crackling noise – which was just wood cracking.”
He took one of his sons to safety while his girlfriend collected the other, and together they successfully evacuated his residence right as the kitchen burst into flames.
The ash from the grill ignited, extending into his home.
For approximately three to four minutes, they observed the house engulfed in flames until the fire trucks showed up at the scene.
“We lost probably 95% of our possessions, photos, and memories and just all the kids’ toys and clothes, all of that just went,” O’Brien recalled. “We got out — that was the main thing.”
Following the occurrence of the fire, the family resided in a provisional residence for a span of two years, after which they subsequently relocated back to their almost $318,000 home.
“You think you know how to put out a barbecue, you think you’ve done the right thing,” Paul O’Brien noted. “The barbecue had been out for ten hours and you put it in the bin.”
“There was obviously just one little rogue ember in there that wasn’t out. It caused a hundred thousand pounds worth of damage just from this $2 barbecue.”
O’Brien collaborated with an insurance firm to mend the harm inflicted upon his dwelling.
And presently, following the blaze, he is actively pursuing his longstanding aspiration to become a firefighter and has participated in numerous residential fire incidents as a component of his occupation.
After the dreadful incident, he became a member of the Lancashire Fire and Rescue team, driven by the desire to “repay” the community.
Since the distressing event, he has refrained from participating in any barbecues and advises others to pay close attention to their grilling equipment.
O’Brien went as far as providing recommendations for post-grill cleaning, proposing the idea of dousing the grill with water to ensure the embers are put out completely.
“You don’t realize how dangerous they are,” O’Brien mentioned to SWNS. “I’d say to anyone, ‘Just douse it in water, and then douse it again and then submerge it in water.’ ”
“Anything with hot coals, firepits, or disposable barbecues, put water on it and make sure that they’re out. Paul O’Brien added that “I thought they were out, and they weren’t, and we lost everything because of it.”