As Valley temperatures drop, residents are lighting up their fireplaces.
But if the chimney hasn’t been inspected, it could lead to a dangerous situation.
In its recent study, the National Fire Protection Association found the No. 1 cause of home heating fires was failure to clean creosote from, primarily, chimneys.
Creosote is the byproduct of wood burning, and it can stick to the inside of chimneys. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, creosote is highly combustible and it can build up in the flue. Once there, if it lights, it can cause a chimney fire.
Chimneys and fireplaces need to be inspected annually, said Mesa Fire Department spokesman Forrest Smith.
“Stationary heaters (such as furnaces and fireplaces) need to have a qualified technician looking at it on an annual basis,” Smith said.
At the beginning of December, when temperatures first dropped, East Valley firefighters were called to three home fires, mostly minor, Smith said.
“It got to the point where it felt cold. It seemed most people were using their fireplaces,” he said.
One issue in the East Valley is people may be now living in a home that was foreclosed previously. The new owner or renter may not know the condition of the chimney, he said.
Another problem is putting too much wood in the fireplace.
“Last year we had at least three situations where people overloaded the fireplace and they got too hot,” Smith said.
Many of the East Valley’s recently built homes have “zero clearance” fireplaces that are prefabricated, lightweight metal boxes. They’re just placed into a spot in the home, right next to building material that may be combustible. Too much heat in the box, and a fire may start.
Homeowners and residents who know the type of fireplace in their home may look up the rating system – and get user advice – online.
Other fireplace advice:
• Smith recommends a 3-foot rule when it comes to fireplaces – keep kids, pets and flammable items at least 3-feet from the fire.
• Dispose of old ashes, even if you believe they’re cooled, at least 10 feet from the house.
• Keep portable heaters at least 3-feet from kids, pets and beds, also.
Even if you have a gas-powered fireplace, there’s a danger: carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure your home is well ventilated and put a carbon monoxide monitor in the hallway of sleeping areas in the home.
Finally, Smith wants to remind people not to use alternative ways to heat a home. Last year, several adults and children were treated after someone placed an active barbecue too close to an open door. The home pulled in the fumes and made the people inside sick.
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Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune