At least five house fires in the Kansas City area over the weekend were caused by improperly maintained fireplaces and chimneys.
Firefighters responded to two chimney fires on Saturday night in the 1900 block of South 65th street and the 1900 block of South 16th street in Kansas City, Kansas. In both cases smoke detectors alerted the residents, who were able to escape unharmed. An unconscious dog was rescued from the 16th Street fire but firefighters were able to revive it.
An early morning fire in the 11900 block of West 66th Street in Shawnee, Kansas caused about $130,000 in damages. The fires started in a lower-level fireplace. One resident saw smoke and alerted the family, who escaped uninjured.
An unattended fire in a fireplace caused a house fire in the 2400 block of Stewart Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas on Friday night.
Also on Friday night the Lee's Summit fire department extinguished a chimney fire in the 1300 block of Southwest Crossing Drive. The residents escaped the home uninjured.
Over the weekend temperatures dropped to one degree in the Kansas City area, which may have prompted residents to have fires in their fireplaces.
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council reminds homeowners not to use their fireplaces as heating appliances. MCSC Vice President Gene Padgitt said “Fireplaces actually take more heat from the home than they put in due to the need for combustion air. Open fireplaces are designed to be used for ambient fires only.” Padgitt recommends the use of a high-efficiency wood stove insert instead in order to produce supplemental heat and have emergency heating available. Fireplaces are 0 percent efficient, while high-efficiency inserts are 75 percent efficient.
Gene Padgitt said “If a chimney fire occurs, call the fire department, get out of the house, then have a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep inspect the chimney before using it again. In most cases, the chimney will be damaged during a chimney fire, making it unsafe for continued use. Signs a chimney fire is occurring are loud roaring sound, popping or cracking sounds, flames coming out the top of the chimney, and smoke backing up into the house.”
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council offers tips for homeowners:
- Never leave fires unattended. Be sure the fire is out before leaving the house
- Have the chimney inspected and swept to remove flammable creosote before the wood-burning season by a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep
- Never burn dry pine or gift wrap in a fireplace as they are an extreme fire hazard
- To improve efficiency of a masonry fireplace, have an insert installed by a professional installer. Never install an insert in a manufactured fireplace
- Keep combustible materials, including firewood and furniture at least 36” away from an open fireplace
- Keep the screen or glass doors closed during operation of the fireplace
- Be sure to have working smoke detectors on each level of the home