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Hot coals blamed in truck fire

A Shenandoah County fire official has determined that a grill filled with hot coals in the back of a pickup truck started a blaze that destroyed the vehicle Sunday.

A Maurertown man, his girlfriend and their two small children were traveling in a 2018 Ford F350 through Strasburg around 7 p.m., Assistant Fire Marshal Joseph Loving said Monday. Someone noticed flames coming from the bed of the truck and the driver pulled over on Crystal Lane in front of the Rite Aid store. The family escaped the vehicle unharmed, Loving said.

A charcoal grill stored in the truck bed they had used earlier that day still contained burning coals, Loving said. Hot coals most likely spilled out of the grill and ignited materials in the truck bed, Loving added.

“Fire spread rapidly and I think while they were driving down the road, before they recognized that something had ignited in the back, air movement had kinda fanned the flames,” Loving said.

The incident also caused 20 or 30 gallons of diesel fuel to spill from the vehicle in the area, Loving said. A Public Works Department crew spent several hours cleaning up the spill. Officials had to notify state agencies including the Department of Environmental Quality because fuel entered the nearby storm drain, Loving said, adding that the crew recovered a majority of the fuel.

The Strasburg Fire Department, the Strasburg Rescue Squad, the Shenandoah County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Strasburg Department of Public Works responded to the incident.

“If you’re gonna put a charcoal grill in the back of your truck after you use it, you want to make sure all the charcoal’s emptied,” Loving said. “He thought he had emptied the majority of the charcoal out. But it wasn’t. I found charcoal still in the grill and in the bed of the truck.”

The fire destroyed the vehicle, and Loving estimated the loss at approximately $50,000.

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