The Merrill Fire Department was dispatched for a report of the smell of smoke in the house at 1309 River St., in the City of Merrill. Initial response from Merrill Fire included, Engine 62, Medic 61, Truck 63 and Car 60. Upon arrival command was assumed by Engine 62 and all occupants had been evacuated from the building. Upon future investigation, Command reported light smoke showing from the eastern eve on the building. Engine 62 personnel had entered the residence with SCBA’s and further investigation revealed light smoke in kitchen and the second floor area. Command ordered a pre-connected 1 ¾” hose line along with a backup hose line to be deployed. While deploying the hand lines, the seat of the fire was discovered to be in the area of the chimney area. Fire personnel removed wall and ceiling covering to expose the fire inside the walls and ceiling along the chimney. Company members extinguished the fire with the hose line. Further fire extension was checked with a thermal imaging camera and none was found. Pine River Fire Department was requested for mutual aid, but was canceled before they responded.
Interviews were conducted with the property owner. The homeowner had stated that they had a pellet burning wood stove and had a good fire going in it for the last month or so. The owner reported he did not know the last time his chimney was cleaned but it was scheduled to be cleaned next week. The owner was advised not to use his wood stove until his stove and chimney were cleaned and inspected. There was a working some detector in the house that alerted the homeowner. Property owner will be contacting his insurance agent.
This structure fire is the second wood burning heating device fire in the Merrill Fire Department response area this heating season. Wood burning stoves and fireplaces can be effective tools for heating, but they also pose fire hazards that contribute to home heating equipment being the second leading cause of U.S. home fires.
The Merrill Fire Department, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) are teaming up to reduce the risk of home heating winter, when half of all U.S. home heating fires occur. Creosote – a sticky, oily, combustible substance created when wood does not burn completely – rises into the chimney as a liquid and deposits on the chimney walls, and plays a role in one-quarter of all home heating fires each year.
Merrill Fire Department offers the following guidelines for safe use of wood stoves, fireplaces and pellet burning stoves:
•Install stoves, chimney connectors and chimneys following manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional do the installation.
•Wood stoves should have the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
•In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
•Start the fire with newspaper or kindling, never with a flammable liquid, such as lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline.
•Keep the doors of your wood stove closed unless loading or stoking the live fire.
•Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from the home and any other nearby buildings. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
•Chimneys and vents need to be cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove, or any other heating equipment, and create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires. Also, make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room, and never leave a fireplace fire unattended, particularly when children are present. Winter fires are preventable!