CANTON COMPASS: Fireplace & Wood Stove Ashes: Fire Prevention Starts with Proper Containment

By | January 6, 2015

First Response: A Public Safety Community Forum

Fireplace & Wood Stove Ashes: Fire Prevention Starts with Proper Containment
December 26, 2014 

By: Richard Hutchings, Chief, Town of Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS Department

Fire Dispatch: Barbourtown Road. Structure fire. Shed and adjacent, 500-gallon propane tank fully involved. Exposures: Residence, about 25 feet from fire.

Cause of Fire: Ashes placed in a container, then stored inside the shed. Ash, including small pieces of coal or wood removed from a fire that has presumably died down, can remain hot from 12 to 24 hours to several days. These ashes can re-ignite, at a later time, when you least expect it. Nationwide, there are over 11,000 residential fires caused by hot ash or embers.

First Response: How do you properly supervise, contain, prepare, remove and dispose of ash from fireplaces, wood/ pellet stoves, charcoal grills and outdoor fire pits? The National Fire Protection Association recommends the following safety tips:

(1) Supervision & Proper Tools

Always be sure any fire you start is out before you leave it unsupervised. Once your fire is out, keep the hot ash behind a metal screen or glass partition.

Cool ashes down completely. Using a metal shovel and fire resistant gloves, remove all ash in and around the fireplace or stove, including the floor.

(2) Containment

Place all cooled ash into a fire resistant metal container(s) made specifically to temporarily store it. Improper containment includes: cardboard boxes, plastic containers or paper bags.

(3) Preparation

Pour cold water into the metal container, to ensure no hot spots remain in the ash that could reignite. Secure a tight metal lid onto the metal container.

(4) Removal

Remove the sealed container from the residence, shed, woodpile, garage, fence, deck, etc.

(5) Disposal

Never dump hot ash into the woods. After several days in the metal container, clear a space outside – away from your property. Dump the contents of the metal container onto the cleared space. Bury the ashes, combining them with the cool soil below the surface.

A Final Word on Prevention: Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are proven lifesavers.