Gallery Pembroke cast iron fireplace

There's nothing like the ambiance and comfort of a real fire, but decades of reliance on central heating seem to have left some gaps in our understanding of fire safety. I've seen too many news stories lately about house fires which started because ash from an open fire or woodburner wasn't disposed of safely. Many people don't realise how dangerous hot ashes can be, assuming the risk of fire disappears as the flames die down. However, even when it looks as though the fire is dead embers can stay hot enough to start a fire for several days afterwards.

The worst story I've heard about recently was the Christmas morning blaze in Connecticut which killed three little girls and their grandparents. Apparently the children had been concerned about Santa getting down the chimney if the embers weren't removed from the fireplace. Their mother's boyfriend is believed to have cleaned out the fireplace and left the ashes in a bag in or near an entryway, close to the rest of the household rubbish, where they reignited during the night and set fire to the house.

Even when nobody is hurt a house fire can be devastating, causing entire families to be displaced from their homes. Always make sure smoke and fire alarms are in working order, and above all develop good fire safety habits.

Safe Ash Disposal Tips

  • If you leave ashes in the fireplace make sure a fire screen is in place.
  • Never use a bag, cardboard box or plastic container to collect and dispose of ashes. The ideal ash container is a small metal can with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to collect ashes from your fireplace or woodburner.
  • Once you collect the ashes from your woodburner or fireplace, take the ash container outside immediately.
  • Place your ash container outside, well away from the house.
  • Allow at least 4 days for ashes to cool before dumping them.
  • If using ashes on your garden take care not to tip your ashes near something which could easily catch fire such as dry leaves, and make sure you moisten the area before dumping the ashes.