Improper disposal of ashes cause of Pleasant Valley fire
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jan. 31, 2013
Just days after two Public Works employees were applauded for putting out a flaming garbage can – ignited by improperly disposed hot ashes – another home in South Windsor was severely damaged by heavy flames which originated in the same exact way. The South Windsor Fire Department responded a little before 4 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, to 986 Pleasant Valley Road, where a fire was in progress in the one-and-a-half-story Cape.
While an investigation by the fire marshal's office was still ongoing at the time of a phone interview on Monday, Jan. 28, Fire Chief Kevin Cooney explained that to his knowledge, the fire originated from hot ashes causing a plastic garbage can to catch fire. The homeowner had emptied the ashes from his wood stove and put them in a metal container “as he was supposed to,” said Cooney. However, after a period of time that the homeowner thought was sufficient for the ashes to cool, he then placed them in the plastic trash can, which was up against his house.
“Throughout the course of the night, that trash can caught fire and caught the vinyl siding of the house on fire,” said Cooney. This was an identical scenario to a Jan. 17 incident on Birch Hill Road. In that situation, two passers-by, Public Works employees Tim Cronin and Mark Hilton, noticed the fire and put it out before significant harm was done.
Next to the trash can at the Pleasant Valley home were two plastic gasoline cans and a propane tank. The plastic containers melted, and the gas within swiftly fueled the fire further. The release valve of the propane tank sprayed propane, adding to the intensity of the flames. “It didn't blow up – which it could have, but it didn't,” said Cooney.
A detached garage and the homeowner's truck were also damaged by the fire.
“The fire was so intense upon the arrival of the fire department that it was already descending onto the house,” said Cooney. The porch was involved at this point, and the fire had gotten into the kitchen and second-floor bedroom. The two occupants, a husband and wife, heard the fire and were able to leave the home, along with their dog. “Because of the aggressive attack of the fire department, the fire was pretty much held to where it was, though there was smoke and heat damage throughout the house.”
At the time of the fire, it was 10 degrees outside, with a wind chill factor of -6 degrees. The wind was between 10 and 15 miles per hour. “Those are three other disadvantages we had working against us,” said Cooney. Normally two fire engines, in addition to the tower/ladder and rescue trucks, respond to a fire. Because of the multiple factors contributing to the danger, the incident commander, Deputy Chief Tom Bengston, called for two more engines to the scene. Mutual aid came from Ellington, Warehouse Point and Manchester's 8th District Fire Department to man South Windsor's fire station in case more assistance was needed at the fire, or if another incident occurred in town.
Cooney said his heart goes out to the owners. While he does not want to appear to take advantage of the incident, he offered these statements in the hopes that it will prevent others from making the same mistake.
“It reiterates the fact that regardless of time or temperature, putting ashes in a plastic container is never a good idea,” said Cooney. “They should never be kept near a house or in a house, or in a garage.” The proper way to dispose of ashes is to put them in a metal container and set them out far from the home and other structures.
Cooney never advises putting ashes in a plastic container, but if you must dispose of them in a trash can, be absolutely certain that they are completely cold. Cooney advises wetting them with a garden hose first.
At this time of year, when people are using wood stoves and fireplaces, it is important for people to keep their chimneys cleaned, to burn seasoned wood and not green wood, and to dispose of ashes properly. As always, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be in your home and working properly.