By Fire Chief Howard Robb
Several times a year, particularly during the winter months, the Fairfield Glade Fire Services responds to fires that are caused by improper disposal of hot ashes from wood burning fireplaces. The scenario is often similar . . . "I thought the coals were cool," or even worse, "I didn't even think about it . . ." The fact is that coals and ashes from fires can remain hot enough to start a fire for many hours or perhaps days after you think the fire is out. The exact amount of time for complete extinguishment and cooling depends on many factors such as how hot the fire was, what was burning, how much unburned fuel remains, etc. To be safe, simply treat all ashes and coals as hot, even when you think they had time enough to cool. The following are three simple steps to ensuring that your home doesn’t become a victim of careless deposal of hot ashes and coals:
How to dispose of fireplace ashes safely
The disposal of fireplace ashes is a serious and ongoing problem because one of the major causes of home fires is the improper disposal of hot fireplace ashes. When the weather is cold outside, a warm cozy fire is delightful. Once the fire is put out, many people simply scoop up their ashes and deposit them into their plastic trash container in the garage. But ashes can hold enough heat to ignite a combustible plastic bin or bag even several days later. Never store or dispose of hot ashes in a combustible plastic trash container. This one simple action is one of the major causes of home fires and has turned many memories of a delightful, cozy evening fire into a disaster. After a few hours in the plastic trash container, the ashes have ignited the trash container and suddenly the garage and house are on fire.
These tips might sound simple but they can save your house, even your life if you use them to help you dispose of fireplace ashes safely:
1. DO NOT remove hot ashes from the fireplace immediately. Wait up to 2-3 days and let the ashes cool completely in the fireplace until there are no remaining hot embers before removing them.
2. NEVER put fireplace ashes in a combustible plastic trash container because it can easily ignite. If you have to remove the ashes from the fireplace before they are completely cool, put the ashes and remaining hot embers in a metal bucket. Move the bucket outside the house and garage and well away from anything that is combustible.
3. ONLY put fireplace ashes in your combustible plastic trash container when they are completely cool and after you have put your trash container out on the street for trash pickup.
These three simple steps can prevent unnecessary inconvenience or tragedy. If your household uses a wood or coal burning fire place it is equally important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a professional.