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On Christmas Day, 2011, Misplaced Ashes Caused One of the Most Tragic Fires in Stamford History!

Captain Philip Hayes, Public Information Officer of the Stamford Fire Department, underscores the significance of prioritizing safety when handling wood-burning stove and fireplace ashes and coals.

The Hidden Danger: It's easy to underestimate the time required for ashes and coals to cool down after a fire. These remnants can remain hot enough to start a fire for several days, even if they seem cool. To prevent tragedy, please follow these essential guidelines:

1. Treat All Ashes as Hot: Always regard ashes and coals as hot, even if you think they've cooled. Handle them with caution and dispose of them carefully.

2. Store Safely: Never store ashes in your house, deck, or garage while they cool. Use a tightly covered metal container, placed at least 10 feet away from your home and other structures. Avoid placing them on porches, decks, or other flammable surfaces.

3. Allow Proper Cooling: Resist the urge to immediately remove ashes from the fireplace. Leave the flue open and keep the fireplace door (if applicable) closed to ensure safe cooling. Never push hot embers into the cleanout pit. Beware that smoldering embers can produce deadly Carbon Monoxide, which may seep through pit door cracks, endangering your family.

4. Wet and Transfer: When disposing of ashes, transfer them to a metal container and dampen them. Use an approved metal ash bucket with a well-fitting metal lid. Never use paper, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, or plastic containers for disposal.

5. Windy Days: Refrain from ash disposal on windy days, as wind can unexpectedly reignite seemingly cooled embers, risking nearby combustibles.

6. No Vacuum Cleaners: Under no circumstances should you use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes.

Preventing fires caused by improper ash disposal is crucial for your safety and the safety of your loved ones. Remember these guidelines to protect your family and home and to prevent devastating incidents like the one in 2011.

Captain Hayes reminds us, “Smoke alarms double your chances of surviving a fire, so check yours today!” These devices can be the difference between life and death in a fire. Take a moment to double-check your smoke alarms now! If you need one, Stamford Fire Department provides them and installation for FREE! Please visit our website to request one or more installtions:

Request A Smoke Detector Installation Appointment

Incident Details (if applicable):

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Captain Philip Hayes Philip Hayes
(203) 977-5600


Wood Burning Stove and Fireplace Safety: Prevent Tragedy, Protect Your Home

Posted: February 1, 2024
About the Author: Captain Philip Hayes
Captain Hayes is a 31-year veteran of the Stamford Fire Department. He is currently assigned to the East Side Fire Station #4 on Shippan Avenue. In addition to his regular Fire Officer duties, he is a Public Relations Officer, the developer of the website and serves on the Departments' IT Team. He is also an avid fan of Fire Department history.
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