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Family cleans up after escaping Mandarin house fire

Fire marshal says charcoal from cookout left in trash can ignited fire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A family of four began cleaning up Tuesday after they escaped a fire that ripped through their Mandarin home.

Around 3 a.m., firefighters were called to the house off Dividing Oaks Trail, near San Jose Boulevard and Marbon Road.

It took about 50 to 60 firefighters a couple of hours to put the fire out.

According to the state fire marshal, the cause of the fire appears to be charcoal from a cookout that was left in a trash can without being fully cooled. The trash inside the can caught fire and eventually spread to a propane tank and the home.

“I'm surprised they did that,” neighbor George Hamilton said. “Just an accident I'm sure. Check your coals, don't dump them in the trash can.”

Two adults and two children inside the home were woken up by their smoke alarm before they called the fire department.

Neighbors woke up to the sight of flames stretching high into the night sky. They said they were not sure if the fire would spread to their homes as well.

“It started climbing across the fence, so it got real really fast, but once we got all of the animals out of the house and everything, it turn to when are the fire engines going to get here,” neighbor Karen Eberhart said.

As the flames spread across the fence, the heat from them damaged a kayak in the neighbor’s yard, but the flames didn’t make it to three gas cans that were sitting on the side of the house.

Also making the fire harder to fight was leaking propane from a tank in the garage. Firefighters said that the heat from the fire blew the safety valve inside the tank, causing it to release propane, fueling the fire more.

Once firefighters got on hand, they were able to get water on the tank and cool it down before it exploded.

The fire left a massive hole in the roof of the house and destroyed two cars.

"It was devastating," Hamilton said. "Everybody was OK. Things can be replaced, but people can't. God's still in control."

Firefighters warned that charcoal will hold heat for a long time, so after a cookout, you want to make sure they are fully cooled before disposing of them.

“Just soak them down with water. People may think that it's common sense that you don't put them in a garbage can. I've been to many house fires where that has occurred,” said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. “Obviously, what you want to do is just totally wet them down. It creates a little bit more of a mess, but it's a lot safer.”

Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries. One was hit by a hose stream and the other suffered a twisted arm. Neither had to be hospitalized.

A propane company representative told News4Jax on Tuesday that it’s best to get propane tanks inspected at least once a year to make sure that they aren't leaking and have no issues. But with a fire like Tuesday's, just about any propane tank will have issues because of the level of heat, the representative said.

The American Red Cross is working with the family, which was out at the home Tuesday morning collecting belongings.