According to statistics issued by Quebec’s ministère de la Sécurité publique, more than 4,500 residential buildings were damaged by fires in 2014, causing material losses estimated at over $232 million. A lot of these fires can be attributed to fireplace ashes that were not disposed of properly or to the misuse of a heating unit. Here is some advice so that you don’t become part of those statistics.
Here’s what to do to dispose of fireplace ashes safely:
1. Use a metal trowel to remove ashes from the fireplace. Never vacuum ashes unless you made sure they are cold.
2. Throw your ashes away in a metal container with a raised bottom and a mechanical lid. Using a fireproof container is essential because ashes can stay hot for more than 72 hours.
3. Remove the container, make sure it’s covered, and store it outdoors, for at least 72 hours and at least one meter away from the building or any combustible materials.
4. Check to make sure the ashes have cooled after 72 hours. If no heat is produced when you stir them, empty them into a plastic bag and seal it properly, then place the bag in your garbage bin. If they are completely cold, you can also empty the ashes directly in your compost bin.
Precautionary measures for wood stoves and fireplaces
According to Québec’s ministère de la Sécurité publique, more than a third of fires in residences are triggered in chimneys. If you don’t want your cozy little fire to turn into a raging bonfire, you need to tread carefully. It is therefore recommended to have your chimney swept once a year (preferably in the spring) or after every three cords of wood burned.
If you have a wood stove, a fireplace or a gas appliance (oven, heater, etc.), being equipped with one or more carbon monoxide (CO) detectors is essential. Where is the ideal place to store the detectors? Near your bedrooms and the basement, close to the main heating system. You should avoid placing them near ceiling fans, doors or windows, behind furniture or curtains, in bathrooms or dusty, dirty or greasy rooms like the garage, kitchen and the heating room.
Lastly, your home should be equipped with at least one 5-lb ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher. It can help you put out almost any type of fire. Check your extinguishers and detectors regularly.