Wilmette, News

No injuries in fireplace-related fire; Fire department issues safety tips

A Wilmette fire this week prompted the Wilmette Fire Department to issue a seasonal reminder.

According to fire officials, the incident on Wednesday morning, Dec. 1, involved a resident’s ash box, which is typically located below the fireplace. No one was injured in the fire, and it was contained to the room and caused minimal damage, officials said.

A day later, on Thursday, Dec. 2, the department issued a press release on fireplace safety.

In it, Fire Chief Brian Lambel recommends that resident’s hire a professional each year to clean their chimney.

“These service professionals remove built-up creosote and can inspect the integrity of the chimneys and ducts to help ensure harmful combustion gases are safely exhausted from your home,” Lambel said in the release.

Lambel told The Record the department advises against residents trying to do the cleaning because of the dangers and difficulty of the task.

National Fire Protection Association heating equipment caused 14 percent of home fires from 2014-2018. Chimneys and fireplaces were the second-leading starting point for those fires, behind space heaters.

The leading cause of those fires was a “failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.” About half of those fires reportedly occur in the winter months.

The Wilmette Fire Department offer a series of tips to care for fireplaces and wood stoves:

• Keep the area around the hearth clear of debris, decorations, extra firewood, and combustible materials;

• Always use a metal screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks and leave glass doors open while burning a fire;

• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire;

• Use only seasoned and approved firewood;

• Never burn cardboard boxes, newspapers, holiday wrapping paper, trash or debris in a fireplace or wood stove;

• Never leave a fire unattended;

• Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container with a metal lid and store outside, away from combustible or flammable materials;

• Always keep a fire extinguisher close at hand and make sure everyone knows how to use it. Also, make sure you have working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home. Test smoke detectors monthly.

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As we enter the winter season many homeowners are starting to light up their fireplaces and stoves. Before you gather around the fireplace or use your stove, the Wilmette Fire Department advises that fire safety be your priority.

Fire Chief Brian Lambel states, “Having fireplaces, wood stoves, and chimneys professionally inspected and cleaned annually can significantly reduce the occurrence of a chimney fire. The Wilmette Fire Department recommends using a chimney sweep that is certified by a nationally recognized agency, such as the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). These service professionals remove built-up creosote and can inspect the integrity of the chimneys and ducts to help ensure harmful combustion gases are safely exhausted from your home.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are over 17,000 fires caused by wood-burning appliances every year. Whether you have a wood-burning fireplace, gas fireplace or wood-burning stove, the Wilmette Fire Department asks that you take the time to keep this tradition a safe and enjoyable experience for you and your family.

If you have any questions about fireplace safety or any other fire safety concern, please contact the Fire Department at 847-251-1101.

Village of Wilmette | 1200 Wilmette Avenue, Wilmette, IL 60091
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Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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