From the desk of Fire Marshal Fred Baker
Five Days. That is how long an ember can remain active in fireplace ashes. Until then, if you must, ashes must be removed to a metal container with a tight lid for safe disposal.
New Canaan already has experienced our first fire caused by improper disposal of fireplace ashes, and there have been at least two others in surrounding towns. This happened on a Monday, and they were placed in a composting bin, which was destroyed. Fortunately, however, the bin was safely away from the structure.
Following is a list of tips for safe disposal of ashes:
Let 'em wait! What's the rush? It's a fireplace. Fires actually burn better with a bed of ashes.
Be mindful that several of the past experiences with improper ash disposal have involved housekeepers or caretakers being "helpful" and cleaning out the fireplace and then placing the ashes in the trash.
If you insist, use an approved metal container with a tight lid. These are available at home goods stores.
Also little known is the fact that if the improperly disposed of ashes don't set your house on fire, they can ignite in the garbage truck, which is a real quagmire as it must quickly dump the load, wherever it is, in the street. That is the true definition of a mess.
And if they don't erupt in the garbage truck, they can create quite a problem when they ignite at the recycling center.
As you may recall, the horrific Christmas morning fire in Stamford two years ago was caused by improper disposal of fireplace ashes. Please be safe for your family's sake.
For more information regarding this or any other fire safety topic, contact me at the New Canaan Fire Marshal's Office at 203-594-3030.