In Wake of Three Structure Fires in New Canaan, Local Fire Marshal Issues Safety Tips


House fire at 322 Dan's Highway on Nov. 16, 2019. Photo published with permission from its owner

Recently, New Canaan has suffered three major structure fires with two of them related to fireplace use. The cause of the third fire was not able to be definitively determined. There was also a small brush fire caused by dumping of fireplace ashes that caused no damage (fortunately). Several residents have called regarding concerns for their fireplaces.

Following are some fireplace safety tips to help keep us safe as we move into the fireplace season:

  1. Depending on amount and type of use, chimneys should be cleaned and inspected by certified chimney cleaners at least every few years – more often if used extensively or if wood stoves are used.  Older chimneys may require video inspection to check for cracked flue liners and loose mortar.
  2. If a fireplace has been idle for long periods of time, an inspection may be in order.  Some animals will build nests in chimneys which can cause a blockage or catch fire.
  3. Always insure fire place damper is fully open before lighting.
  4. Always use fireplace screens to stop flying embers.
  5. Ashes may contain hot embers for several days.  If cleaning is required always use a metal ash bucket with a tight sealing lid available at most hardware or home improvement stores.
  6. Only burn dry, seasoned hardwoods.  Never burn trash or wrapping papers.  This may overwhelm the flue causing the fire to spill out of the fireplace.
  7. A good spark arrestor cap at the top of the chimney is always a good idea; especially where a wood shingle roof is present.  This will also prevent critters from building nests as well.
  8. Never use combustible liquids to help start a fire.
  9. Always wait for at least 24 hrs. to close the fireplace flue damper.  The smoldering embers may produce carbon monoxide (CO).
  10. Insure that smoke and CO detectors are present and properly operating.

For questions regarding fireplace safety please contact the New Canaan Fire Marshal’s Office at 203-594-3030.

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