Friday December 7, 2012

GRAFTON -- Grafton Fire and Rescue was called to a pair of chimney fires in November and locals are being urged to take simple precautions to avoid disasters as temperatures drop.

Assistant Fire Chief Keith Hermiz said he responded to a chimney fire shortly after Thanksgiving Day, though he was not present at the second one because he was volunteering with Rescue Inc. He said personnel found heavy smoke coming from the chimney when they arrived at the first house, though most of the fire had subsided.

Hermiz said protocol was followed to make sure the fire stayed under control. He said firefighters poured a chemical, the same that is found in fire extinguishers, down the chimney to eliminate any remaining blaze. The assistant fire chief said the chemical is usually placed into plastic bags and dropped down the chimney. The chemical is released when the plastic bag melts.

Firefighters also remove all remaining wood from the fireplace and look for any breaches in the chimney to ensure a fire won't go wild if another ignites. Hermiz said a thermal-imagining camera is used to check for any breaches.

He said fire departments are called to the majority of their chimney fires in the beginning of the winter season because people are lighting their fireplaces for the first time in a while and many have put off properly cleaning their chimneys.

Hermiz, who has been the assistant fire chief for about three years, said there are plenty of ways to avoid having to call 911 while you're roasting chestnuts.


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He advises everyone with a chimney to have it cleaned and inspected by a professional. Hermiz recommends asking friends, family and neighbors or looking in the phone book for suggestions on who to hire for the job.

He said people should pay attention to the quality of the materials they are burning and use firewood that has been properly cured. Having a 5- or 10-pound fire extinguisher in the house is also a good idea, Hermiz said.

But chimneys are not the only potential household danger during cold months.

New Hampshire State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan announced the his office assisted Tuftonboro (N.H.) Fire Chief Adam Thompson and Police Chief Andrew Shagoury in a fire investigation at 34 Barber Pole Road in November.

The fire, according to a press release, was ruled accidental and caused by the discard of hot ashes and coals from the residential wood stove. The blaze proved fatal as a woman succumbed to smoke inhalation while trying to collect clothing and other items from the house before evacuating. Her husband was attempting to extinguish the fire himself.

Degnan wanted to remind everyone to use extreme caution when discarding ashes and coals from any stove. He also stressed that containers be used and placed in non-combustible areas away from structures. It is also important to make sure all smoke detectors are always in working order.

The holiday season involves a lot of cooking, Christmas trees and candle usage and, therefore, an increased risk of house fires.

Degnan advises all to stay in the kitchen when food is cooking and to call 911 immediately and exit your house right away if a fire is discovered.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.