Grill explosion leaves 11 homeless in Montgomery County

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GAITHERSBURG, Md.--Firefighters in Montgomery County are warning anyone looking to cookout this summer after two families lost their homes because of a grill explosion in Gaithersburg.

Around 8:30 Monday evening, fire crews responded to the 9200 block of Bluebird Terrace for calls about a deck fire that ultimately sparked from a grill.

Hillary Oliveira says she and her family were enjoying a pre-Independence day barbecue when their grill exploded, lighting everything in its path on fire.
"We're coping you know, we are still in shock because everything happened so fast.", she said, counting herself and her family lucky to have escaped without any serious injuries.

Esther Portillo was in town visiting family when she saw the smoke.
"I told my daughter to call 911 because we saw fire and then the fire trucks start coming... it was terrible.", said Portillo

Pete Piringer with Montgomery County Fire & Rescue says the explosion came down to one key error.
"The best way to describe it is some kind of mishap, mis-happenstance where charcoal briquettes were introduced into a gas grill, which of course, is not what the manufacturer instructions indicate. And then there was vinyl siding, then of course the deck is wood which collapsed pretty quickly after firefighters arrived in the scene.", explained Piringer.

In all, that fire caused over half a million dollars in damage and forced 11 people out of their homes, but those can be rebuilt.

Oliveira is thankful, saying, "We are so grateful, because we were able to take my mom out, which.. she's slow... and other than that, we can replace it later.

Contractors working on clean up efforts say the Oliveira's home is a complete loss.
The American Red Cross is assisting the occupants of both homes.