Smokey the Bear is instantly associated with his time-honored warning, "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires." Well, the same holds true for the backyard barbecue. When you're done cooking, remember that even though it may look like the fire is out, it's possible there could still be embers burning beneath a blanket of briquette ash.
"And what do they do? They go to the garage and throw the ash in the plastic garbage can, with the dirty rags and stuff like that, then close it and walk out," Balch said. "And three hours later, they're saying 'Those little arsonists got into our garbage cans!' No, you big knucklehead: You put the ashes in the garbage yourself [without making sure they were out] and started it on fire."
Lesson learned: Like a campfire, charcoal briquettes need to be watered down thoroughly after grilling. Mix the ash as you water it, churning it up to douse any burning embers. Don't be in a rush to discard the ashes -- often the safest place to let them smother is the bottom of the grill itself. Use a non-flammable container, such as metal, to dispose the ash.