Last year, a couple of Fairfield County families were very lucky, one right here in New Canaan. I am talking about improper disposal of ashes from your fireplace. In one case an outdoor shed was destroyed and the fire had started to burn up the outside of the house before it was discovered. In the other, a garbage can was placed on a deck which started to burn but was discovered before any damage to the house occurred.

Unfortunately this is not an uncommon experience; during my career I have seen countless fires caused by well-intended homeowners not realizing that these ashes can conceal hot embers for as long a four days and longer after a fire has burned. In many cases entire homes have been destroyed by the ensuing fire and, in a few cases, precious lives have been lost.

In some cases homeowners have been lucky but, the trash hauler has not. There have also been many occurrences of hot ashes igniting garbage trucks as they drive down the road.

If you must dispose of ashes please get a proper metal bucket with a lid and place it on a noncombustible surface. The best and easiest answer is -- just leave them in the fireplace.

Of course it goes without saying -- but I will say it anyway -- make sure you have working smoke and CO detectors throughout your home. If you have questions about how many or proper locations for detectors please call the New Canaan Fire Marshal's Office at 203-594-3030.