By: H. TRUMAN CHAFIN
November 12, 2012
FAIRVIEW - A home that had just been purchased and was in the process of being remodeled received damage to the living room area Monday afternoon, after embers from the fireplace chimney that had not been cleaned prior to use, ignited the wood structure behind the brick.
According to information provided by Williamson Fire Department (WFD) Firefighters Matt Hatfield and Garrett Gregory, they were dispatched to a home located in the Fairview Edition directly off of Rt. 52 after a call was received of a chimney fire. Upon arrival, the firemen discovered a fire in the wall directly behind the fireplace, and had to remove a portion of the ceiling and an exterior wall that adjoined the structure to extinguish the flames.
“The homeowners had just purchased the home, and were there doing some renovations,” stated Hatfield. “As the temperatures dropped today, the house became cool and since there was no electricity in the structure, they decided to build a fire to heat the house.”
“The chimney hadn’t been cleaned, and embers ignited inside the wood structure that formed up the fireplace.”
The firefighters stated that the damage was isolated to the living room only. A total of 5 firemen responded to the call, led by Chief Jerry Mounts.
Following the call, the chief spoke with the Daily News about fireplace safety, precautions and maintenance that must be performed to assure the safety of those utilizing this form of heat.
“More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes,” stated Mounts.
“According to national statistics, heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. Another leading cause of fireplace fire is that weak mortar joints allow super-heated gases to escape outside the fireplace walls and ignite wood framing or other combustible materials. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently.”
The WFD encourages property owners who use a fireplace to practice the following fire safety steps to keep fireplaces and wood burning stoves clean.
• Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
• Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
• Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
• Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
• Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
• Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
• Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire. Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
• Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
• Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
• When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
• Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
To protect the exterior of your home, always stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home; keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris; cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester and remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
To further protect the interior, install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas; test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year and consider installing the new long life smoke alarms. Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment and extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.
Chief Mounts encourages everyone to not hesitate to contact their local fire department if they discover a problem that could lead to a fire and require assistance.