Common Causes of Fireplace-Related Home Fires
In the U.S., home heating systems are the second leading cause of home fires; and fireplaces are a part of that statistic. Preventing a home fire that originates with your fireplace or wood stove is not complicated, but taking the needed actions toward fire prevention is essential. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a small flame can get completely out of control in as little as 30 seconds. The following are true stories, and they provide insights into strategies for preventing house fires.
Unextinguished Fire Spreads
In November of 2014 in Houston, Texas, a home caught fire, with a family of four sleeping inside. According to fire officials, the fireplace had been lit on the night of the fire, but everyone went to bed without first extinguishing the flames. The fire spread from the fireplace to the wall surrounding it, and the blaze then spread to the attic. Everyone managed to escape the burning home with no injuries. The fire was quickly brought under control by fire crews.
Roof Catches Fire
The roof of a home in Sacramento, California, caught fire one Saturday morning, and all of the occupants were alerted in time to escape the burning home. Fire investigators determined that a hot ember from the fireplace flew onto the dry shake roof from the chimney, causing the roof to catch fire. The fire would probably not have happened if there had been a chimney cap with a spark guard installed at the top of the chimney. Spark guards prevent hot embers from escaping the chimney and potentially igniting nearby combustibles, such as rooftops.
Nearby Combustible Materials
A $100,000 home in Portland, Oregon, was completely burned as a result of embers escaping the fireplace and catching nearby debris on fire. An elderly man was the only occupant when the fire occurred, and he suffered smoke inhalation.
On Bainbridge Island in Washington State, a century-old home was a complete loss as a result of a firebox that was in a state of disrepair. A fireplace was being used, and the blaze ignited wood that was in direct contact with the back of the firebox. The occupants of the home safely escaped the fire.
Burning Unsafe Materials
A fireplace is not the place to burn yard debris, which a man in Salina, Kansas, found out the hard way. The homeowner put a bag of leaves and other yard debris in his fireplace and then went back outside. Meanwhile, the fire burned out of control and caught his house on fire. Firefighters responded to the scene quickly and put out the blaze.
Overloaded and Unsupervised Fire
Residents of a home in Tualatin, Oregon, stuffed cardboard and wood into their fireplace and left the fire burning when they went to bed. The result was a house fire that caused about $40,000 in damage. All of the occupants of the home made it out safely. Investigators found that the fire was caused by overloading the fireplace, which caused flames to enter the wall space over the fireplace and spread to the attic.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that fireplaces and chimneys be inspected annually. Professional chimney sweeps can help identify potential dangers and help to ensure fire safety and peace of mind.
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