Winter is coming: Careful with hot ashes from those cosy fireplaces and wood burners

Did you know that ash can remain hot for several days? As the winter draws in, more people in Oxfordshire are lighting wood burners and fireplaces.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has recently put out a number of fires caused by ashes from fireplaces and wood burning stoves. These fires have threatened the safety of those that live nearby and have damaged property.

Station Manager, Chris Barber said: “Most people don’t realise that ashes remain hot for a long time and can ignite fires. Ash and hot coals should be stored in a metal container that can be tightly closed with a metal lid. This box should never be stored in a house, garage or shed. It’s also really crucial not to store logs or any combustibles next to wood burners and fireplaces.”

Hot ashes ignite barn and garage fires

A serious fire in farm stables near Kirtlington on Wednesday was a lucky escape for residents and animals. Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service found the roof of the barn alight, next to a house, large oil tanks and caravan.

The incident commander, Crew Manager Pete Mackay, from Bicester Fire Station said: “The fire quickly spread to a large store of firewood and hay from some hot ashes which had been placed in a plastic box within the wooden building and caught fire. Fortunately, due to the quick actions of a visitor noticing the fire, a horse was able to be moved and no animals were injured and we were able to prevent any further spread to the oil tank nearby, whilst tackling the main fire.”

In Little Bourton near Banbury last week, two fire engines from Banbury were called to a fire on the roof of a garage. The fire spread to a large store of firewood from some hot ashes inside a plastic bag in the garage some 18 hours before and which had developed unnoticed slowly throughout the day. The residents had gone to bed not knowing of the dangerous situation that was happening in their garage and they were so lucky to be woken by their smoke alarm operating when the smoke started to seep into their home. They evacuated safely and immediately called the fire and rescue service.

Wood burner fire in Osney

Firefighting crews were on the scene within minutes in Arthur St in Oxford this week when called to a fire in a house while the occupants were out. The smoke alarm had alerted a neighbour to the fire who then phoned 999. The fire is believed to have been started by a wood burner transferring heat to wood that had been stored next to it in the fireplace.

The Incident Commander, Watch Manager Richard Woodward said: “I would specifically remind the public not to store wood or place any other combustible materials immediately next to wood burners or boilers as the heat transfer is tremendous. On this occasion the occupiers of the house had working smoke alarms on each floor that alerted a neighbour and allowed plenty of time for us to intervene and resolve the incident”.

Safe disposal of hot ash and embers

  • Store ash and hot coals in a metal container that can be tightly closed with a metal lid. This helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing the ashes which can leave hot coals exposed for re-ignition.
  • Wet the ashes prior to closing the metal lid.
  • Do not store your metal ash container:
  • inside the house
  • on a timber deck
  • in a garage
  • in a shed
  • or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from hot coals to nearby flammable items
  • Never empty ashes into:
  • a paper or plastic bag
  • cardboard box
  • or other similar containers

This advice is part of 365alive, Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service’s vision to work every day to save and improve the lives of people across Oxfordshire. For more information, visit www.365alive.co.uk .