Deadly Christmas Day fire points to hazards of improperly tended fires

Here and Now

A deadly Christmas Day fire in Connecticut has refocused attention on the dangers that fireplaces can present if not properly tended to.

Five people — three young sisters and their maternal grandparents — were killed in Stamford, Conn., while the children’s mother and a family friend survived. Fire officials are blaming the fire on fireplace embers that were thrown into a bag.

Connecticut State Fire Marshall Robert Ross said the best approach to dealing with embers is to never assume they’re completely out. He said if you can leave them in the fireplace, closed off and shutdown, that’s OK. 

“If there isn’t a door on it, then the ash and embers need to be removed, whether you think they’re cool or they’re hot,” he said.

Ross said in that case, the best option is to place them in a metal box, outside and far from any buildings of flammable structures. They should also be wet down, just to be safe.

Ross said he’s seen many fires start because people put ash on a back porch, thinking it had cooled.

“When you’re dealing with ash or embers, people can never make the assumption that the ash is fully out,” he said.

Ash can stay warm for days, he said.

“This is a common problem,” he said. “It’s just one thing you never want to take for granted.”

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