Fire pits may be a mainstay for summertime revelers, but Mary Van Damme, a single mother from Harrison Township, Michigan, has a warning for people planning to get cozy by the flames.
Two months ago, Van Damme’s mobile home was accidentally set on fire — she lost everything, including irreplaceable mementos and a family pet.
"It takes one little ember for it to cause destruction like it did," Van Damme told Fox 2 News (video below) while walking around the slab of concrete that was once her home. "I mean look at this, it's gone.”
A 16-year-old neighbor had borrowed Van Damme’s fire pit, and he later dumped the ashes into a plastic trash can, Fox 2 reported. Less than five hours later, Van Damme’s neighbors called to inform her that her house was on fire.
"Everything in my shed, stuff for my kids," she said. "Clothes, memorabilia for my mom — I can't replace any of that."
Though Van Damme and her three children were safe, they lost one of their pet cats.
"Bella, we found her the next day underneath one of the beds," Van Damme said. "She was bad, she was gone."
Their other cat survived, but the family cannot afford the veterinary bills.
"He is very burnt," she said. "His paws are burnt, his whiskers are burnt. part of his tail was amputated.”
Van Damme is now living with friends.
"Be careful of your fire pit," she said. "They cannot only burn people, but they can burn structures down. And it destroys lives.”
HGTV recommends keeping fire pits far away from any structures and combustible surfaces. The Harrison Township Fire Department warns that ashes can stay hot for up to two days.
Image via Sam Howzit/Flickr, WJBK