COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX) For the second time in two days, a house fire appears to have been caused by improper maintenance around the fireplace according to Columbia fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins.
The fire Friday in Eastover caused an estimated $50,000 in damages leaving three adults displaced. The fire Thursday occurred in Irmo and caused minor damage. The chimney at the home in Irmo had a buildup of creosote, which is a sticky, oily, combustible substance created when wood does not burn completely, according to Chief Jenkins.
The annual maintenance of fireplaces and chimneys through cleanings and inspections will lessen the amounts of creosote buildup.
As colder weather begins to make it's apperance in South Carolina, the Columbia Fire Department and fire departments across the United States experience an increase in home heating fires.
Chief Jenkins says that the heat sources that comfort us also represent the leading cause of U.S. home fires and fire fatalities. .
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment - primarily space heaters and fireplaces - caused an estimated 57,100 home structure fires nationwide resulting in 490 civilian deaths, 1,530 injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage nationwide in 2010.
Chief Jenkins states that home heating fires are largely the result of human error and the majority of them are preventable.
By following some basic fire safety precautions and making small modifications, you can greatly reduce the risk of home heating fires.
- All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
- Use heating equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- Install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer's instruction. Have a qualified professional install the equipment.
- Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
- Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.
- Turn space heaters off when you leave a room or go to sleep.
- Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations, and flammable materials.
- Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
- Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces.