Dad warns of silly item error that completely destroyed his home

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Paul
Paul's house destroyed by a fire caused by a disposable bbq. (Image: Lancashire Fire and Rescue/ SWNS)

A man who accidentally burnt his house down with a barbecue has become a firefighter.

Paul O’Brien, 47, caused more than £100,000 worth of damage when he put a £2 disposable grill in his wheelie bin and went to bed. He was woken by banging on the door and his girlfriend screaming.

The couple made it out of their house with their two sons, then aged two and eight, as their home went up in flames. “Looking out of our bedroom, you could see the two kids’ bedrooms, and it was just bright orange,” said Paul. “Because we opened the front door, the oxygen came in and the fire just went whoosh, and the smoke just engulfed the house. It felt like we were there for an hour. In reality, it was three or four minutes.”

Paul had invited some friends to his home in Lytham, Lancs for a barbecue as they watched the football match between Russia and England in June 2021. Roughly ten hours later, he put the disposable barbecue – which “felt cold” to the touch – in a wheelie bin before heading to bed.

Dad warns of silly item error that completely destroyed his home rriddqixxiqezinvFire at the property (Lancashire Fire and Rescue/ SWNS)
Dad warns of silly item error that completely destroyed his homeBlaze gutted the home (Lancashire Fire and Rescue/ SWNS)

The blaze on June 14, 2021, cost the family, of Lytham, Lancs, nearly all of their possessions and they were forced to live in temporary accommodation for two years. Grateful Paul is now an on-call firefighter in the town as a way of “giving back to the community”.

He added: “I thought I knew how long the coals could smoulder for. I was wrong. There was just one little rogue ember in there even though it had been out for ten hours and a £2 barbecue caused over £100,000 of damage to my home. If you do use one, submerge it in water to be certain it is no longer burning.”

Paul has now moved back into the £250,000 property after two years - and joined Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service as a way to "give back" to the community.

And as a trained firefighter, he has also warned others about the dangers of barbeques.

He said: "You think you know how to put out a barbeque, you think you've done the right thing. 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 barbeque."

Dad warns of silly item error that completely destroyed his homePaul O'Brien is warning people about the dangers of disposable BBQs

"We lost probably 95% of our possessions - photos and memories and just all the kids' toys and clothes, all of that just went.

"[But] we got out - that was the main thing."

He added about joining the fire service: "It feels like I'm giving something back after what happened.

"Anything with hot coals - firepits, disposable barbeques - put water on it and make sure that they're out.

"I thought they were out, and they weren't, and we lost everything because of it."

Paul said he had set up the portable barbeque in his garden at around 1pm and had cooked on it for one hour with friends in his back garden during the game.

At around midnight, he'd picked up the grill and tossed it into his black bin before heading to bed.

But cinders from the barbeque caused a fire inside the enclosed space, which spread to his conservatory and set alight to the roof of his home.

Dad warns of silly item error that completely destroyed his homeHe wants people to dispose of them correctly

Paul said: "The barbecue felt cold when I put it in the bin. I thought I knew how long the coals could smoulder for. I was wrong.

"At 5am in the morning, we heard a bang on the front door and thought 'What the hell was that?' My girlfriend, she started screaming.

"Looking out of our bedroom, you could see the two kids' bedrooms, and it was just bright orange. You could hear this crackling noise - which was just wood cracking."

Paul said he had grabbed one of his sons while his girlfriend got the other,

and they had made it out of the property just as his kitchen was going up in smoke.

They had then watched on in horror for a few minutes before four fire trucks arrived to put out the blaze.

He said: "Because we opened the front door, the oxygen came in and the fire just went woosh, and the smoke just engulfed the house."

"It felt like we were there for an hour. In reality, it was three or four minutes."

Paul said he and his family had moved to temporary accommodation for two years as he worked with his insurance company to repair the damage.

And although he'd previously harboured ambitions of joining the fire service, he said he'd pressed ahead with his decision in the wake of his experiences.

He's since attended multiple house fires as part of his job as an on-call firefighter, where he responds to emergencies but doesn't staff a fire station.

But Paul said he hadn't touched a barbeque since the traumatic incident.

And he urged others to make sure to leave their grills in water after they use them in the future.

He said: "We've not even had a gas barbecue...It's just not on the agenda.

"You don't realise how dangerous they are. I'd say to anyone, 'Just douse it in water, and then douse it again and then submerge it in water.'"

John Kelly

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