MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Investigators say a roaring fire that cost a family their home could serve as a lesson for the rest of us.
Early Thursday morning, an attic adjacent to a chimney caught fire in a Woodbury home. The family had been using the fireplace below earlier in the night.
And while investigators are still hunting for a cause, they say fires like this one happen almost every winter.
The house is located in the rural part of Woodbury, so water to fight the fire had to be hauled in with tank trucks. Firefighters from four departments had to deal with the cold as well as the fire.
“It was an older farm house that had been added onto over the years, four people were at home at the time of the fire,” said John Wallgren of Woodbury Public Safety. “They had used the fireplace that evening…it doesn’t sound like anyone had inspected it recently.”
Wallgren says chimneys and fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected once a year. Creosote builds up inside the chimneys, and can catch fire. Chimneys are meant to handle smoke, not flames.
Besides regular cleaning, fireplaces and wood stoves also need good air flow. Flammable liquids should never be used to start a fire, and wet or soft wood should not be burned.
“Keep it to clean, hard woods,” Wallgren said.
He added that people shouldn’t burn wrapping paper and packages in their fireplaces.
“It’s really not recommended, because what happens is it gets stuck up there and you just get a build-up,” Wallgren said.
Another common cause of house fires this time of year is improper handling of fireplace ashes. All ashes should be stored outside in a metal container with a tight lid.