Ask a chief: What should I do with the ashes from my fireplace or firepit?


On Christmas morning, a fast-moving fire in Stamford, Conn. took the lives of three young sisters and their grandparents. After an investigation, it was discovered that the fire was caused by improperly discarded fireplace embers. Having been a firefighter in the city next to Stamford prior to moving to Elk River, this tragedy hits close to home. It was entirely avoidable.

Hot coals and embers hidden in a pile of ashes can stay hot for four to five days or longer. When disposing of ashes, it is important that they are kept away from any combustible material. They should be stored in a metal container with a tight fitting lid. As an extra precaution, wet the ashes.

Do not store the container in your house, garage, on your deck or near anything that is potentially flammable. Keep the container outside, away from your house. For a firepit, make sure the fire is completely out. Wet the area completely, saturating the ashes to the very bottom.

One of the contributing factors to the deaths in the Stamford fire was the absence of working smoke detectors. Make sure your smoke detectors are working. Working together, we can avoid tragedies such as this. —Elk River Fire Chief T. John Cunningham