Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

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November 16, 2013

Fire Chief Chasteen offers winter heat safety tips

GREENSBURG – A home on North Broadway Street experienced a fire scare Friday morning, caused when someone dumped an ashtray into a trash can.

The cigarette butts in the ashtray were still hot and caused the contents of the waste bin to begin smoldering, which quickly filled the house with smoke. The home’s occupants called 911 and evacuated the house safely. EMS workers at the scene checked the residents for smoke inhalation damage and no injuries were reported.

When firefighters from the Greensburg Fire Department (GFD) arrived, they encountered heavy smoke in the house, but no fire. The trash can was found to be the source of the smoke and was taken outside where the smoldering trash was extinguished.

“It looked much worse than it was,” GFD Fire Chief Scott Chasteen said. “There was a lot of smoke, but no actual flames.”

The close call caused by a seemingly harmless action makes it seem wise to review fire and heat safety tips for the winter. The Daily News spoke with Chief Chasteen on Friday to learn ways to stay warm and safe during the cold weather.

To begin, Chasteen emphasized the danger of emptying ashtrays into trash cans because cigarette butts can stay hot for a long time.

“It’s best to use a metal container with nothing combustible inside, preferably sand or gravel,” he said.

Chasteen advised having one’s furnace inspected annually near the beginning of the cold weather season. A trained professional can inspect the heating equipment and make sure everything is in working order and is operating properly, reducing the possibility of the furnace causing a fire. All flammable material should be stored a safe distance away from the furnace, water heater and other appliances.

Alternative heating devices, like fireplaces and wood stoves should have the flues inspected to be certain they are clean of creosote, or soot, and that there are no cracks in the protective liners, according to Chasteen. Creosote can build up inside the flue and eventually catch fire. Because creosote burns extremely hot, it can cause cracks in the liner and superheated creosote can leak through cracks, increasing the risk of fire spreading by a great deal.

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