July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Medina fire chief provides tips to prevent chimney fires

MEDINA — With temperatures beginning to fall, city Fire Chief Bob Painter suggests tips to prevent chimney fires.

Painter said about a dozen house fires in the Medina area start in chimneys during winter, so it’s no surprise that the peak time for a chimney blaze is December through March.

“The number of calls we get for chimneys are usually pretty big starting this time of year,” Painter said Thursday.

More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces or wood stoves as primary home-heating sources, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s fire administration office. Heating fires account for close to 40 percent of residential fires in rural areas every year. Often, such fires are because of tar and sap buildup in chimneys and stovepipes.

Painter encourages people to take the following precautions:

• Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned each year by a certified chimney specialist.

• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.

• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

• Only burn seasoned, dry hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.

“Don’t use scrap lumber or burn pine or willow wood because of tar and sap, which can ignite halfway up a chimney,” the chief said.

• Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.

• Do not burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in the fireplace or wood stove.

• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house for work or school.

• Always keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.

In case of a chimney fire, Painter said people immediately should call 911. He cautioned not to spray water up a chimney to try to extinguish a blaze. It can cause sudden cooling and cracking of the structure, which can result in a fire spreading more rapidly, he said.

For details about preventing chimney fires, visit www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/

Contact reporter Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or sgrazier@medina-gazette.com.