Fire damages garage at Altamont home; lawnmower potential cause

(Photo Credit: Lauren Linder, NEWS10ABC)

ALTAMONT, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A fire Saturday afternoon destroyed a man’s garage and everything inside.

Police say they’re still investigating a cause, but that it possibly started with a lawnmower.

So what should you know next time you cut your grass?

Something as simple as using a lawnmower can turn ugly so quickly and investigators are saying that could be the case here.

The badly destroyed garage and portions of the outside of the home were burned on Armstrong Circle in Altamont.

The family is lucky the fire was contained to their garage and crews stopped it before it spread to the rest of their house.

Crews got the call just before 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon as a large plume of smoke was rising from intense flames.

Firefighters say it was confined to the two-car garage and they quickly got it under control within about 15 minutes, thus saving the rest of the house.

Dan Allen lives next door and said the homeowner had just finished cutting his grass and had put his lawnmower in the garage.

“My wife and I were in the house. I went and checked on her, and then we heard a couple big pops,” said Allen. “I ran over to check and see if he was okay. He was fine. Nobody else was in the house.”

Allen and his neighbor had just been mowing their lawns side-by-side. He said his neighbor told him he had seen his tractor smoking and set it next to a propane tank.

“He put his lawnmower into his garage and it started smoking and then it just took off from there and he had a few propane tanks in the garage.”

Before they knew it, the garage was up in flames.

“It could have happened to me, it could have happened to anybody who has tanks in their garage and lawnmowers so it was kind of scary,” Allen said.

The fire investigators said they have not ruled an official cause but they’re investigating the possibility that it started from a lawnmower.

They said it was accidental in nature, but it could take some time before investigators rule a cause.

What precautions should be taken the next time you mow your lawn?

The most important step is to wait to store your lawnmower when you finish using it.

“Lawnmowers after you’re done with them should sit for at least probably 30 minutes or to a full you know at least to cool down to where you can touch it and your hand don’t get burned,” said Clifton Park Fire Chief, Art Hunsinger.

Keep it away from combustibles and flammable items, just storing your tractor close to them can cause a problem.

Also, make sure your lawnmower is well-maintained and critters haven’t invaded.

“It’s not just something that touches and starts a fire,” Hunsinger said. “[It’s important] that oils are changed, fluids are changed, check the hoses.”

Allen’s going to keep all of this in mind for the next time he mows his lawn.

“I’ll definitely make sure that I let it sit outside for a while when it’s done, when I’m done mowing and make sure that there’s no issues,” Allen said.

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