Misplaced embers from a cozy fireplace were the cause of the sad news everyone received on Christmas Day from Stamford, Conn. A beautiful three-story victorian home on the waterfront set on fire because embers were not taken outside. Five lives lost, three of them only beginning.
If you use a fireplace, pellet stove or wood burning stove, please continue reading.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fireplace usage is on the rise with the Northeastern part of the U.S. seeing the biggest increase between 2000 and and 2010.
The danger of fires has even been seen right here in Southington within the last few weeks as the temperatures drop. "We had one just a couple of weeks ago," said Asst. Chief Russell Wisner. "A gentleman thought the embers were all out and several hours later they ignited and did some substantial damage to his basement," he said.
In fact, Wisner said that they have had "half a dozen [calls] since the fall."
His professional advice? "Put embers in a metal can and set them away from the house," said Wisner, stressing the word "away." According to Wisner, people routinely make the mistake of putting them in plastic buckets or placing them on their attached decks. Embers, if exposed to the air, can flare up, even after one or two days of sitting outside.
"Douse them with water if possible," said Wisner.
"Embers can also be a Carbon Monoxide hazard," added Wisner. "The next day fireplace users will close their dampers and because there is a lot of gray ash, a CO issue could be caused."
"Don't put them in the garbage," Wisner implores and recalled an incident a few years back when a Southington garbage collector dumped a blue garbage can in the truck only to find it had caught on fire a few minutes down the road.
Lastly, "Have your chimneys and flues cleaned yearly," said Wisner. "With the storm that just happened people were burning all kinds of woods, even green wood, and it makes more creosote."
The National Fire Prevention Association also encourages fireplace users to keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove, or any other heating equipment, and create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires. Also, make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room, and never leave a fireplace fire unattended, particularly when children are present. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, and keptat a safe distance from your home.
And of course, check your CO detectors and smoke alarms for fresh batteries twice a year.