U.S. Household Fires Provide Lessons In Safety

HouseFireU.S. Household Fires Provide Lessons in Safety

A fireplace is one of the most appealing features in any home, but warming by a fire comes with important responsibilities.  Home fires caused by heating systems are not uncommon, but all it usually requires is proper care and common sense to avoid accidentally causing a dangerous house fire.  Most home fires are preventable.  For example, a significant number of fireplace-related house fires are caused because of creosote buildup in the chimney and a lack of proper cleaning and maintenance.  See the following examples of real U.S. fires that have occurred in the past three years to learn other avoidable errors that come at a high cost.

Using a Damaged Firebox

When our professional chimney sweeps inspect your chimney and fireplace, we check the firebox to be sure it is capable of keeping fires contained and away from combustibles.  About 30 miles from Seattle, Washington, on Bainbridge Island, a large 100-year-old home was burned beyond repair.  The occupants safely escaped the home, but a firefighter was badly injured while fighting the blaze.  The conclusion of the Bainbridge Fire Marshall was that the fireplace failed because the firebox had been in a state of disrepair; wood directly behind the fireplace ignited.

Mishandling of Hot Embers

Homeowners should become familiar with safe practices related to use of the fireplace.  Devastating fires are caused every year because hot embers were not handled properly.

Five people died in a fire on Christmas Day 2011, and the $1.7 million Connecticut home was a total loss.  Investigators concluded that hot embers had been placed in a paper bag and taken either to an outside trash area or to the mudroom.  The hot embers started a house fire.  There were smoke alarms throughout the house, but none of them were operational.

Safety experts recommend putting ashes in a metal container, wetting the ashes, and allowing them to cool for a few days before disposing of them.

Combustibles Near the Fireplace

A $100,000 home in Portland, Oregon, was a complete loss after the home caught fire because embers from the fireplace caused nearby debris to ignite.  The elderly resident escaped but suffered from smoke inhalation.

A good safety rule is to keep combustibles at least six feet away from a fireplace.

Burning Debris

In Tualatin, Oregon, a homeowner crammed cardboard and wood into the fireplace before going to bed.  According to investigators, the fireplace had been overloaded, which caused flames to enter the wall space above the fireplace and get into the attic.  Occupants escaped safely, but the fire caused about $40,000 worth of damage to the home.

Lessons from investigators which have emerged from numerous fires include:

  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and replace the batteries at least every six months.
  • Hire a certified professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect chimneys Chimney Sweepand fireplaces annually.
  • Always have fire extinguishers in the home.
  • Do not leave a fire unattended.
  • Burn only untreated wood in the fireplace because a fireplace is not designed to burn other things and toxic fumes could be released by burning other materials.
  • Be extremely careful when handling fireplace ashes.
  • Keep combustible materials at least six feet away from the fireplace.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you get your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually, to avoid hazardous chimney fires.  Take the first step in fireplace safety; contact us today to get your fireplace and chimney cleaned and ready for winter.


Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004
Office 770-771-5501

Chimney Sweep / Chimney Repairs / Chimney Liners / Fireplace & Stove Service
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