Chimney fire luckily results only in minor smoke damage

Fire chief has words of caution for those who burn wood

Little Falls firefighters responded to a chimney fire this morning (Jan. 28) at 8 a.m., on Betty Lane in Little Falls Township.

Seventeen firefighters responded and were at the scene for about 45 minutes.

“We opened up the chimney and things were good,” said Little Falls Fire Chief Mike Nieman. “There was minor smoke damage.” No one was hurt and the fire was confined to the chimney.

Nieman said when burning wood, he recommends homeowners routinely clean their chimneys and shine a light with a mirror up the chimney to see whether they’re clean. “One of the biggest things is to keep them clean — with the wood not stacked next to the wood furnace,” said Nieman. Wood, he said, should be stacked three or four feet away; actually, all combustibles should be kept at least that far away, he said.

A lot of people who burn wood are using an outdoor wood burner, which Nieman said is safer because it’s outside. “So you don’t have to worry about the house burning down,” he said. “The problem is, the wood is often piled next to the wood burner.” If the wind changes, a spark flies and lands on the wood, with the possibility of igniting a fire.

Wood stoves are a good heating source, “If you’re safe about it and clean the chimney,” said Neiman. “Clean them once a month and let them burn hot, try not to damper them down.”

So too, Nieman said only dry wood should be burned. “I know people have propbably gone through their stash already; but burn dry wood, it’s a plus.” Green wood, he said, leaves creosote build-up in the chimney, which can catch fire.

Nieman said the department has responded to three or four chimney fires this year.

“In this cold weather, it’s really hard,” said Nieman.

The cold weather can be the impetus behind a lot of different fires. People must be “Very, very careful with frozen water lines and how they thaw them out,” said Nieman.

Nieman suggests people call a professional to thaw their pipes, instead of using a torch to try to thaw the pipes, or lighting charcoal or a propane burner under a home. Even with heat tape, Nieman said care must be taken.

Many calls have come in about carbon monoxide. “Make sure furnace vents are free from snow and that there is a carbon monoxide detector in the home,” said Nieman.