Improper Use of Fireplace Cause of Brewster House Fire

Reader photo by Laurie Wegman

BREWSTER – Brewster Fire Chief Robert G. Moran and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the cause of the January 6, 2021 fire at 81 Glenwood Road in Brewster was improper use of the fireplace. The resident started a fire in the fireplace without opening the damper first, causing the house to fill with smoke and embers to fall out of the fireplace. She was taken to a local hospital for smoke inhalation.
Members of the Brewster Fire Department, Brewster Police detectives and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal jointly investigated the fire.

Chief Moran said, “Always check that the damper is open before lighting the fire and don’t close the damper until the fire is out and the embers are cold.” He added, “We are expecting some very cold weather in the next few weeks, and the most important step to keeping warm and safe this winter is to make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.”

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “Most chimney fires occur from a build-up of creosote, a tarry byproduct of burning wood. Have your chimney flue cleaned at least once each heating season.” He added, “A lot of fires start from the improper disposal of ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves. Shovel them into a metal bucket with a metal lid and store outside on the ground away from the building.”

Fire officials offer these additional tips to safely burn with wood:
• Burn only dry, well-seasoned, hardwood to reduce creosote
• Don’t use flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Never leave children unattended near the stove.
• Use a fireplace screen to prevent flying sparks and embers
from falling out on to the floor.

In 2019, there were 570 fire incidents involving chimneys, fireplaces, and woodstoves in Massachusetts. These fires caused one fire service death, three civilian injuries and two firefighter injuries, and resulted in $2 million in property losses.
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