February 13, 2003

Firemen Keeping Busy With Chimneys and Grass Fires

Current weather conditions lent themselves to five separate fires in Scotland County last week. The blazes could be broken down into two distinct categories. The most dangerous type of fire occurred in the first two calls.

The Scotland County Fire Department responded to the Richard Burlingame residence in Crawford at approximately 7:00 a.m. February 6 for a flue fire.

Creosote buildup had caused blockage in the chimney from the homes' wood-burning stove. The build up caused smoke to fill the house and actually caught fire in the exhaust system, shooting flames out the top of the chimney.

Firemen use a chimney extinguisher, a chemical "log" placed in the fireplace, to extinguish the fire. They also used a small amount of water to dose the flames at the top of the chimney. They then used a variety of tools to remove a portion of the blockage to insure the blaze was extinguished.

The second flue fire occurred the following day, February 7 at approximately 6:00 a.m. The fire department responded to the Mike Doubet residence on Orchard Street after a neighbor reported flames shooting out of the chimney.

Again the fire was blamed on a creosote build up at the top of the chimney, which had caught fire. Despite the highly visible flames, the fire was not causing any heat damage in the chimney and did not cause a smoke build up in the home. The chimney extinguisher put out the fire in the stove. An extinguisher was used on the chimney to minimize damage and then the buildup was knocked down to be cleaned up by the homeowner.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 1998, there were 18,300 residential fires in the United States originating in chimneys, fireplaces and solid fuel appliances. These fires resulted in 160 personal injuries, 40 deaths and $158.2 million in property damage.

The department then faced a trio of calls over the weekend beginning at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday, February 8, when firemen responded to a grass fire at the Bob Chance residence north of Memphis. Fire had spread through some grass and damaged some vehicle parts stored behind an outbuilding at the site. The fire was quickly extinguished.

A fire the following afternoon sent firemen back to the Burlingame residence in Crawford where a stray cigarette was the apparent cause of a grass fire.

The department rolled one final time, Sunday at approximately 7:00 p.m. to a grass fire in Granger. Again a cigarette was blamed for the blaze that started along a gravel road in the north part of town before spreading into a pile of farm equipment and lumber.

Fire Chief Roger Gosney noted that conditions are ripe for such types of fires. "Even with the cold and the snow, people need to realize how dry this county is right now," he said. "It doesn't take much to get a fire started so people need to be careful."

The fire was quickly extinguished. Firemen were on the scene approximately 20 minutes.

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