Single mom who lost home in blaze has fire pit warning

A warning about something that many use over the holidays.
In Harrison Township Mary Van Damme lost a family pet and everything she owns because of a fire pit. 

FOX 2: "The fire started right here?"


There is a long concrete slab where Mary Van Damme's home used to be.

"It takes one little ember for it to cause destruction like it did," said Van Damme. "I mean look at this, it's gone."

It all happened  two months ago. Mary received a phone call - her mobile home was on fire. Investigators learned her 16-year-old neighbor borrowed her fire pit.

"I wasn't even home when they dumped it into my garbage," she said.

FOX 2: "They dumped ashes from the fire pit into a trashcan?"

"A plastic trashcan, yes," Van Damme said.

That  was around noon and less than five hours later, neighbors saw flames.

The house had to be torn down, the fire destroyed everything inside.

"Everything in my shed, stuff for my kids," she said. "Clothes, memorabilia for my mom - I can't replace any of that." 

And not just property - but pets.

"Bella, we found her the next day underneath one of the beds," Van Damme said. "She was bad, she was gone."

Her other cat survived but she cannot afford the veterinarian bills.

"He is very burnt," she said. "His paws are burnt, his whiskers are burnt. part of his tail was amputated."

The single mom of three children has been living with friends since losing her home.

All of it the result of someone tossing ashes in a plastic dumpster.

"Be careful of your fire pit," she said. "They cannot only burn people, but they can burn structures down. And it destroys lives."

If you are going to use your fire pit or your barbecue, the Harrison Township Fire Department says to put the ashes in a metal can away from anything that can catch fire or explode and throw water on them.

The ashes can stay hot up to two days.