Two residential fires in two days over the holiday weekend—potential causes cited as hot ashes on a wooden deck and a fireplace unit—have prompted the Big Bear City Fire Department to remind Valley residents and homeowners to “check your hot spots!” December, January and February are the leading months for home fires and, on average, more than one-third of U.S. home fire deaths occur during the winter months. Per the National Fire Protection Association, home heating fires are most commonly caused by inadequate chimney cleaning; the placement of flammable items too close to heaters, including portable and space heaters; fueling errors involving liquid or gas-fueled heaters; and flaws in the design, installation or use of heating equipment. However, according to Fire Chief Jeff Willis, “The good news is that most of these fires are preventable. It is simply a matter of being aware that these hazards exist, and taking the few steps necessary to avoid them.” Fire officials recommend having all home heating systems and chimneys inspected annually and cleaned, if necessary, before the start of each heating season. If you use space or portable heaters, keep anything that can burn—including people, pets and furniture—at least three feet away. Be sure to turn heaters off when leaving the room or before going to sleep; heating appliances should be equipped with built-in safety devices that prevent overheating or shut down if tipped over. And, especially important to note: Fireplace and barbecue ashes must be placed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid and soaked with water.
Per the Bear City Fire Department, which lists these safety tips on their website, four calls over the holiday weekend were due to chimney and/or flue related incidents; hot ashes on a wooden deck (resulting in $150,000 worth of damage to a home on Barrett Way on Thanksgiving); and a fireplace unit that had pulled from the wall, igniting structural components (and resulting in $100,000 damage to a home on Mt. Doble). An earlier fire (on November 7), prompted by hot ashes on a wooden deck, burned two homes in Lake Williams, leaving two families homeless.