Dispose of Ashes Properly to Reduce Chance of Fires

Howard County’s Department of Fire and Rescue Services responds to too many calls during the winter months due to improper disposal or storage of fireplace or wood stove embers that ignite. Residents are engaging in extremely unsafe practices such as placing these embers in paper bags or cardboard boxes, and storing them in places in or around the home.

Many people don’t realize the severity of their actions, and underestimate the importance of disposing of ashes in canisters designed for this purpose. A recent tragedy in Stamford, CT, where 5 people died in a home fire due to improperly stored ashes, has drawn attention to this issue. For more information on the story, click on the following links:http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jan/05/mother-of-3-girls-killed-in-conn-fire-speaks/?ap.

Video link:  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45787994/ns/us_news-life/t/man-died-trying-save-granddaughter-conn-fire/

In the case of the Stamford, CT tragedy, not only were the remnants of the fireplace disposed of improperly, but it is believed there were no working smoke alarms.

The Department of Fire & Rescue Services has the following safety tips:

  • Ensure there are no hot spots left in the ashes.  This is done by soaking them in water or letting them sit for a few days.  Double check for hot spots.  This also holds true for cigarette and charcoal grill ashes.
  • All ashes should be stored in a fire resistant metal container with a tight fitting cover.  Buckets made especially for storage of ashes are available at many retailers.
  • Ashes should NEVER be disposed of in a plastic garbage bag or can, a cardboard box, or paper grocery bag. While this seems obvious, it happens way too often.
  • The metal container containing the ashes should then be placed away from anything that can burn. It should NOT be placed next to the firewood pile, up against the garage, on or under a wooden deck, or under a porch.  ALL of these have started fires in Howard County.   There should be NO storage of ashes inside a structure at anytime.  Even in a metal container they can flare up, smolder, and produce smoke in the home. They should always be placed outside and away from the home.
  • After sitting in this metal container for a week, the ashes are then safe to dispose of in your trash, but never dispose of them while in the house.

This information was provided by Howard County’s Department of Fire & Rescue Services.

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