Although we have had a relatively mild fall, it won’t be long before the winter cold will be knocking at our doors. As temperatures grow colder, furnaces, space heaters, woodstoves and fireplaces will be fire up to keep us warm and cozy.
Therefore, Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office urges everyone to use safety precautions when using these alternative heating sources, such as woodstoves, fireplaces, or portable heaters. According to the US Fire Administration, wood stoves cause over 4,000 residential fires every year. Between Friday, November 12 and Saturday, November 13, fire and rescue personnel in Loudoun County responded to two fires that were directly related to woodstoves.
On Friday, November 12, an accidental fire which displaced several residents and their pet cats was due to a failure of a woodstove system.
Around 3:40 a.m., Friday, November 12, Loudoun County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management received a 9-1-1 call for a structure fire at 24213 Corktree Lane in Aldie. Fire and rescue personnel from Aldie, South Riding, Arcola, Middleburg, Leesburg and Prince William County responded to the scene. Arriving fire and rescue companies discovered an extensive fire that eventually destroyed the home.
The American Red Cross coordinated long-term relocation assistance for the residents who were displaced as a result of the fire. No injuries were reported.
The second fire occurred on Saturday, November 13. Around 9:40 p.m., on that date Loudoun County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management received a 9-1-1 call for a house fire at 19270 James Monroe Highway. Fire and rescue personnel from Leesburg, Aldie, Hamilton, Lansdowne, Purcellville and Loudoun Rescue responded to the scene. Arriving fire and rescue companies discovered a fire in an upper bedroom of the home. Crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly, bringing it under control in minutes, containing the majority of the fire damage to the bedroom. Other areas of the home received water and smoke damage.
Two adults, one dog and one cat were displaced as a result of the fire. The American Red Cross was on hand to provide assistance for the displaced family. There were no injuries reported as a result of this incident.
The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office stated that the second fire, which resulted in estimated $75,000 damage, was accidental due to the failure of a woodstove system, too.
“Through proper maintenance and upkeep of alternative heating sources, fires such as these, could be prevented,” reported Fire-Rescue Chief W. Keith Brower.
According to the United States Fire Administration, heating is one of the leading causes of residential fires in the United States. The USFA reports that over one-quarter of these fires result from improper maintenance of equipment, specifically failure to clean the equipment.
The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office and the US Fire Administration recommend taking a few simple safety precautions to prevent many of the fires caused by heating equipment.
Carefully follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions. Look for solid construction, such as plate steel or cast iron metal. Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams. Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs, or trash. Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions. Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from your wood stove.
Electric Space Heaters:
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over. Heaters are not dryers or tables; don’t dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. Space heaters need space; keep combustibles at least three feet away from each heater. Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.
Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heater use in your community. Never fill your heater with gasoline or camp stove fuel; both flare-up easily. Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene. Never overfill any portable heater. Use the kerosene heater in a well ventilated room.
Fireplaces regularly build up creosote in their chimneys. They need to be cleaned out frequently and chimneys should be inspected for obstructions and cracks to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires. Check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire. Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace. These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control. Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes near any open flame. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed. Store cooled ashes in a tightly sealed metal container outside the home.
Above all else, the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office reminds residents of the importance of having a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, including one in every bedroom and one outside each sleeping area.
“In a fire, seconds count. Properly installed working smoke alarms can help provide the extra seconds needed to escape safely in the event of a fire,” reported Chief Assistant Fire Marshal Jan Mitchell. “We were very fortunate in both of these incidents, since neither of these homes had working smoke alarms. The outcome could have been devastating.”
Safety is of the utmost concern. Take a few minutes to insure that you and your family are protected. Install smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and stock your home with a dry-chemical fire extinguisher. Practice a fire escape plan, and keep emergency numbers by the phone.
Should you like further information regarding fireplace, or other alternative heating source safety, call the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office or Joy Dotson, Public Education Manager at (703) 777-0333. If you need a smoke alarm, they are available for free by calling 703-737-8093.