Man warns others after pellet grill explodes

West Richland man warns others after pellet grill explodes

WEST RICHLAND, Wash. -- A regular outdoor barbecue in a West Richland backyard turned explosive.

“Oh my God!” you could hear Randy Mechell yell. In a burst of fire and smoke--a pellet grill blew apart.

“I don't know anybody that would ever dream that a pellet stove could explode,” he said.

Mechell said he fired up his grill to cook some hamburgers and noticed it had gone out.

“So I opened up this hopper lid here with the pellets,” he motioned to the grill. “And it had burrowed a hole down through the center, so it starved it of fuel.”

Mechell said he pushed the pellets back into the hole and turned the grill to “smoke” mode.

But the grill started smoking more than usual.

“I took a step back, like ‘what's going on?’ Pulled out my phone, because it was really weird, and as soon as I pulled out my phone, it just completely exploded,” he said.

Mechell said he's glad no one was hurt.

“I just picture me being out here with my grandson,” he said. “It could have been really bad, it could have been way worse. Thank God it wasn't.”

Mechell said he called the grill's maker, Traeger Grills.

“Has this ever happened before?” he recalls asking the customer service representative. “She goes, ‘yes it has.’”

He said they told him it was probably user error--but Mechell said he just did what he always does.

“People need to know these can explode,” he said. “And I don't believe that there's anything that the Average Joe should be able to do to turn it into a bomb.”

For now, Mechell said he's switching to charcoal grilling and staying away from pellets.

“Personally I don't trust them,” he said. “Not anymore.”

And Mechell said he just wants others to be aware of potential risks.

“There's thousands and thousands of these on peoples back decks,” he said. “They should at least know.”

Action News reached out to Traeger Grills and received a statement from the company which reads, “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers. While this incident can happen with any grill — including propane — it is extremely rare with pellet grills. This “over-firing” occurs when too much fuel builds up in the grill when the heat source has been extinguished and is then re-ignited. The owner’s manual included with every Traeger grill explains that when a grill unexpectedly loses temperature or shuts down, the customer must clean out all the pellets from the firepot before restarting the grill. After reviewing the series of events leading up to the incident, it is our understanding that these steps were not taken. We have been in touch with this customer and will continue to work to find a mutually agreeable resolution.”

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The company also forwarded us proper handling instructions for the grill to avoid an incident like this.

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