Household Fire Safety Lessons
Real Household Fires Provide Lessons in Safety
Heating systems, including fireplaces, are the second leading cause of household fires in the U.S. If a homeowner takes proper safety precautions and stays alert to potential dangers, however, there is no need to live in fear of a home fire. All of the pleasantries associated with a fireplace can be enjoyed in security. Simply heed the advice of experts such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which recommend that you get your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually.
Another way to gain confidence about the safety of your family when using a fireplace is to learn from the sometimes tragic mistakes of others. The following news stories are from 2011, 2012, and 2013; each of them exposes a preventable issue which caused a devastating fire.
No Chimney Cap
On a Saturday morning in Sacramento, California, in March, a man saw that the roof of a neighbor’s house was on fire. He alerted the occupants, and all five people, including a 3-month-old, escaped safely. Investigators determined that an ember from the fire in the fireplace flew out from the chimney and caught the dry shake roof on fire. The attic and roof were a complete loss.
A chimney cap is an appliance that is placed at the top of a chimney, and it usually includes a spark guard that prevents hot embers from escaping onto the roof. There most likely was not a cap with a spark guard on the chimney in this case.
An important safety measure involved with a fireplace is to handle fireplace ashes with extreme caution. It’s a good idea to place ashes in a metal container, wet the ashes, and allow them to cool for several days before disposing of them. The following are stories of two fires caused by mishandling of hot embers.
The most devastating kind of tragedy occurred on Christmas Day 2011. Five people were killed in a blaze in a Connecticut home valued at approximately $1.7 million. Improper handling of embers was determined to be the cause of the deadly blaze. Hot ashes were placed in a paper bag and taken either to a mud room or an outside trash area. Although smoke alarms had been installed in the house, none of them were operational. Investigators found evidence that the occupants attempted to escape the blaze but were not able to.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hot embers were transported to a garbage can, but no one noticed that some of the hot embers fell onto the porch. The embers smoldered for hours, and then the rear of the house went up in flames. The family was very fortunate because the smoke alarms did not work, but they still managed to escape with their lives. Approximately $100,000 worth of damage was done to the house.
Burning Yard Debris
In Salina, Kansas, a homeowner discovered how dangerous it can be to burn yard debris in the fireplace. He poured a bag of leaves along with other debris into the fireplace and then went outside. It wasn’t until he heard a smoke alarm inside his home that he realized the debris had caused his house to catch fire. No one was hurt in the fire, and firefighters quickly contained the blaze.
Combustibles Near Fireplaces
An elderly man in Portland, Oregon, was fortunate to escape with his life when embers from his fireplace caused nearby debris to catch fire. The man’s $100,000 house was a complete loss, and he also suffered smoke inhalation.
If your chimney is in not properly maintained, the result could be a costly house fire. Contact our chimney sweeps professionals today for a cleaning and inspection.
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