Unattended patio grill caused fire on Northern Avenue

Gary Williar suffered first- and second-degree burns to his upper body

June 08, 2011

An unattended patio grill caused a fire that heavily damaged a house on Northern Avenue in Hagerstown Tuesday evening, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

Gary Williar of 950 Northern Ave., suffered first- and second-degree burns to his upper body in the 6:46 p.m. fire at his home, a fire marshal's report said.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst said Williar was taken to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center in Baltimore, where a spokeswoman said Wednesday that he was in fair condition.

Williar was cooking potatoes on the grill, which caught fire, likely because of grease and fat that had collected in the basin from previous cooking, Ernst said. The fire burned through the fuel line, causing the propane to ignite, he said.

A nearby full propane tank also vented due to the heat, contributing to the blaze, Ernst said. The fire spread to the two-story, wood-frame house, causing about $60,000 in damage to the house and $25,000 to the contents, the report said.

"People who use their grills a lot need to take the time to clean them," Ernst warned.

Williar was burned on his back, shoulders and head when he went back into his house to save his pets, but was forced out by the heat. Ernst said. A pet bird died in the fire, but the fate of a cat was unknown, he said.

It took about 35 minutes for firefighters to bring the fire under control, the report said.

Firefighters from Longmeadow, Maugansville, Leitersburg, Greencastle, Pa., and the Hagerstown Fire Department responded to the fire, along with the Washington County Special Operations and Emergency Air Unit, and the Hagerstown Community Rescue Service.

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