Cold nights can spell fire danger for residents |

Cold nights can spell fire danger for residents

Christina Proctor

As summer slowly fades into fall the danger of wildfires decreases, but at the same time, firefighters warn, homes become more vulnerable to roof and chimney fires.

The nights are cold enough to prompt people to use their stoves and fireplaces, but without any significant precipitation, pine needles and wood roofs are easily ignited.

“With fall coming on, pine needles really start filling up the valleys in roofs and coating the surface,” said Lake Valley Fire Capt. Steve LaClare. “People need to make sure their roof is cleared before they start using their fireplaces. They should also make sure there is good defensible space around the house. Any trees that are near the chimney need to have at least a 15-foot clearance.”

Last October, a U.S. Forest Service cabin at the top of Echo Summit was declared a total loss after embers from the chimney landed on the cabin’s wood shake roof. The fire extended into the attic, causing the roof to collapse into the main living area. On the same weekend, a home in Upper Lake Valley had a similar problem. The owner heard a noise in the attic and found smoke upstairs. Sparks from the chimney had ignited the home’s 20-year-old wood shingle roof.

LaClare said homeowners should have chimneys cleaned at least once a year, and checked for defects and cracks.

“What can happen is that the heat will build up and ignite the house’s frame through the cracks,” LaClare said.

In case of a chimney fire, homeowners should not spray water on the chimney because it can cause cracks in the masonry, LaClare said. Instead residents should place a pan of water on the fire to create condensation.

The signs that a chimney fire is starting to escalate is a roaring noise and smoke backing into the house, LaClare said.

Firefighters offered these tips to help residents protect their homes.

n Have chimneys cleaned and inspected before use.

n Keep roofs free of debris and pine needles.

n Make sure the fireplace flue has a cap with a spark arrester, which helps stop sparks from flying out and landing on the roof.

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