Contributing Writer

The North Royalton Fire Department was called to a fire on Friday, January 16, when a neighbor saw flames and heavy smoke coming from the chimney of a Pamela Drive home. The Fire Department responded about 8:57 p.m. to the one-and-a-half-story home. The fire was under control by 9:15 p.m. No mutual aid was needed, according to North Royalton Fire Lieutenant Mark Pollack. There were eight North Royalton Firefighters on the scene. The fire was extinguished with a dry chemical fire extinguisher from the inside and outside of the chimney. This is the first chimney fire this year. Pollack noted that there was a buildup of creosote on the inside of the chimney, which caused the fire.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, under FEMA, over 30% of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel fed appliances to heat their homes. Every year, about 35% of all house fires are due to heating fires, many due to the creosote buildup. In order to operate these efficiently and safely, they offer the following recommendations:

*Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected each year by a certified chimney specialist.
*Clear the area around the hearth of any kind of flammable material.
*Keep glass doors open while burning a fire, which ensures enough air circulation needed to prevent creosote buildup. Keep the metal mesh screen closed to prevent stray embers.
*Close the glass doors after the fire is out to prohibit outside air from the chimney opening.
* Install stovepipe thermometers to monitor flue temperatures. *Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces.
*Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
*Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
*Use only seasoned hardwood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
*Build small fires that burn completely. They also produce less smoke.
*Never burn cardboard, trash or debris.
*Place the logs in the back of the fireplace on a strong supporting grate, when building a fire.
*Never leave a fire unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
*Be sure to allow ashes to cool completely before disposing them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
* Stack firewood outdoors, at least 30 feet away from your home.
*Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
* Make sure there are no branches or other foliage hanging near or above the chimney, flues or vents.
*Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment, extending all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.

North Royalton Fire Chief Robert Chegan stresses the importance of having residents’ fireplaces and wood stoves cleaned and inspected yearly. “You never know if cracks have developed in the walls,” he noted. He also asks residents to keep their driveways, walkways, fire hydrants clear of snow, make sure that their addresses are visible from the street, to ensure a safe and efficient response in case of an emergency.