Dangers of fireplace ashes - From the Desk of the Fire Marshal / Fred Baker
Published 11:40 am, Wednesday, December 28, 2011
It has happened again-- this time with horrific, unimaginable results. Five lives lost -- three of them children in the Christmas Day fire in Stamford. The cause of this fire has been attributed to improper disposal of ashes from a fireplace.
And on Monday, the day after Christmas, the same exact thing happen here, in New Canaan. The situation was discovered early, and no one was hurt with just minor fire and smoke damage.
What I do not understand is what is the rush to remove ashes in the first place? They are in a safe location and pose no threat if left in the fireplace. If you are worried about the cat using them as kitty litter, keep the fireplace screen closed.
I have written about this issue on several occasions. This is a very common cause of fires, especially around the holidays. If you simply MUST remove the ashes, a metal container, with a metal lid, is required. Then place the covered container on a noncombustible floor (garage or basement floor) away from any combustibles. Remember, embers can remain hot for up to three or four days after the fire has gone out. Never throw them in the household trash.
In several of the past instances that I am aware of, persons other than the owners/occupants have been the ones to clean the ashes -- housekeepers, handymen or other staff -- that think they are helping. I have even seen vacuum cleaners catch fire because they were used to clean ashes.
And last but not least, make sure properly installed and operating smoke and CO detectors are present in your home. It appears none were present in the Stamford tragedy.
For questions regarding this, or any fire safety issue, contact me at 203-594-3030.