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May 21, 2018
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RPPS stress fireplace safety amid string of fires

  • The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety is reminding residents of the importance of having your fireplace regularly cleaned in order to help prevent the risk of residential fires.

By: Katherne Minkiewicz
March 2, 2018

After several house fires occurring in various Rohnert Park neighborhoods throughout the past few months, the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety is reminding residents of fireplace safety tips, as well as the importance of having your chimney inspected before use.

The warning from public safety comes after RP firefighters noted the response to several home fires where more often than not, the cause of the fire came from a dirty or malfunctioning fireplace.

A two-story home on Jubilee Court was destroyed on Feb. 21 in the early morning hours after a fire erupted from the home’s fireplace. The flames were thought to have escaped from the firebox, traveling through to the interior and exterior walls of the home. While nobody was hurt in the incident, the fire serves as a good reminder to keep fireplaces safe and clean.

The public safety department is attributing creosote as one of the major fire hazard concerns, which can build up in the chimney of a fireplace if not properly cared for.

“Creosote is a sticky, oily substance that is created when wood does not burn completely. It rises in chimneys when wood is burning and it is deposited on chimney walls. Accumulation of creosote can ignite and cause a fire in the chimney,” according to a press release from the department of public safety.

And often in cases of chimney fires, the flames can get even worse, “... In certain circumstances, the fire can extend into the structure itself, causing substantial damage to a home.”

To try and combat this danger, public safety officials are passing along fireplace safety tips, such as remembering to always get your chimney inspected and cleaned.

They also refer to safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association, which recommends to, “Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove, or other heating equipment, make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen or doors to prevent sparks from flying into the room.”

It is also important to remember to never leave a fireplace unattended, especially if children are present. And lastly, the association also says that ashes should be cooled before putting them out into a metal container or bin. Hot ashes are too much of a risk to handle.

According to the public safety fire division 2016 Annual Report, there were 82 fire related calls and while statistics do not specify the cause of each of those fires, it’s estimated the fires contributed to $218,147 in damage from building, vegetation and vehicle fires.

Fire Commander Mike Bates, said while there hasn’t been a lot of creosote fires in RP, there have been a fair amount of chimney fires.

“I wouldn’t say there are a lot (of fires due to creosote), but we do have our fair share of chimney fires, especially when it gets cold outside,” Bates said. “The ash and soot can build up and people should get their chimney cleaned before the winter season.”

However, according to the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, around 7 percent of all home fires are caused by the gloppy creosote substance. What’s more, is that a dirty wood stove or fireplace can have negative impacts on respiratory health.

“Any old, inefficient wood stove can emit as much air pollution as five dirty, old diesel trucks,” according to the NSAQMD. So to keep that fireplace clean and working properly, visit www.nfpa.org/Public-Education, or to find a professional chimney cleaner, consult your local business directory.