Each year, the Naperville Fire Department responds to fires that are caused by improper disposal of hot ashes from fireplaces, wood stoves, grills or mobile fireplaces/fire pits.
The fact is that ashes from fires can remain hot enough to start a fire for many days after you think the fire is out. The exact amount of time for complete extinguishment and cooling depends on many factors such as how hot the fire was, what was burning, how much unburned fuel remains, etc.
To be safe, simply treat all ashes as hot, even when you think they had time enough to cool. To properly dispose of ashes, we recommend the following: if possible, allow ashes to cool in the area where you had the fire for several days. These devices are designed to contain their heat safely. When it is time to dispose of the ashes, transfer them to a metal container and wet them down. Then keep the metal container outside of your home and away from any combustibles until the refuse is hauled away. Make sure not to place any other combustibles in the metal container.
Another very important thing to do is to have your chimney inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary, by a professional chimney sweep to ensure it is clear of obstructions and creosote. They will be able to determine if your chimney and fireplace have any cracks that need repair. While operating the fireplace, make sure you use fireplace screens to keep sparks and fire debris inside the fireplace. Make sure that the area around the fireplace is clear of all combustibles. A safe distance to remember is three feet. It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby. Never use an accelerant to start a fire and make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.
Finally, please celebrate safely this holiday season. Test your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms to ensure they are working properly. Pay attention when cooking. Extinguish all candles before leaving a room. Turn off all holiday lights before leaving the house or going to bed. And lastly, enjoy your time with family and friends! See you in 2019!