With temperatures dropping into the 20s overnight, Chico residents, like Lauren Rafe, may use a fireplace or wood stove to stay warm. "We like to use it a couple times a week. It helps to keep our heating bill down and a nice way to heat our house up," says Rafe.
But when the fire is put out, and the ashes aren't disposed of in the right container or location, the aftermath could look like this.
On December 12th a fire broke out at a home on Filbert Avenue in Chico. Firefighters say the residents placed ashes from their wood stove into a plastic trash can, three days prior to the fire. Those ashes then re-ignited. "The ashes can stay hot for days. They may even feel cool, but deep inside the ashes may have an ember," Chico Fire Captain Joe Duran says.
It was a similar scene at a home on Lawnwood Drive in Chico on December 23rd where a fire erupted several hours after placing ashes in a plastic trash can. Which is exactly what Captain Duran says not to do. "Don't use a plastic container, certainly not a paper bag.. Don't place them in your garage and of course not a waste container."
On Christmas morning in Stamford, Connecticut a three story Victorian home went up in flames after smoldering embers weren't disposed of properly. That fire killed five people inside, including three young children.
So how can a tragedy like this be prevented. Capt. Duran says, "Place the ashes into a metal container.. 06 find a direct route outside.. 28 once it's outside, find an open space, keep it away from any structures, anything that may catch on fire."
But he says if possible, the safest way to handle ashes is to simply leave them in the fireplace until they can cool. Rafe says, "It's just taking that extra 10 minutes to make sure you're doing something safe that can save your life and the life of your loved ones."
According to the National Fire Protection Agency between 1994 and 1998, ashes caused nearly 10,000 house fires, 32 deaths, and about 170 injuries every year.