Wood & Solid Fuel Safety
More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.
Heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently.
Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean
- Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
- Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
- Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
- Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
- Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
- Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
- Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
- Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
Safely Burn Fuels
- Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
- Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
- When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
Protect the Outside of Your Home
- Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
- Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
- Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
- Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
Protect the Inside of Your Home
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.
- Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
- Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.
Debien Named Fireman of the Year
Story by Bob Beckstead, Courier-Observer
MASSENA - A Massena firefighter who helped get two people to safety during the March 16, 1998 fire at the former Albion Hotel on South Main Street was recognized Saturday night as this year’s Massena Volunteer Fire Department Fireman of the Year.
James F. Debien was cited for his efforts in helping to get Richard Ashlaw and James Baker out of the hotel. Mr. Ashlaw, who at the time was the commander of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Massena post, had rushed into the hotel and was trying to get Mr. Baker out of the building when he received assistance from Mr. Debien, Massena Fire Chief Thomas C. Miller said in announcing this year’s winner.
Mr. Miller said he had talked with Mr. Ashlaw about the fire and was told that, upon learning someone was in an upstairs bedroom, he had grabbed a fire extinguisher in an attempt to quell the flames and enter the bedroom.
“There were flames everywhere and heavy, heavy smoke,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Ashlaw was able to reach Mr. Baker and grab his wrist to start pulling him out, but became overwhelmed by the smoke and had a hard time pulling the man, according to Mr. Miller.
He managed to drag Mr. Baker into the hallway, and that’s where Mr. Debien entered the picture, locating the two men and carrying them out of the burning structure. Mr. Ashlaw told Mr. Miller it was like a bear grabbing them to get them out of the building and to safety.
Mr. Miller described Mr. Debien, a past chief and member of the department for more than 40 years, as “very modest and very quiet.” In fact, in accepting the award, Mr. Debien’s only comments were “What a surprise. Thank you.”
Mr. Miller said the volunteer spirit runs in the Debien family. Mr. Debien’s wife, Robin, is a member of the fire department’s auxiliary and two sons, James Debien Jr. and Corey W. Debien, are also members of the department.
“This guy is dedicated,” he said.
Mr. Miller said members can put in a nomination for Fireman of the Year and it’s up to him, 1st Assistant Chief Ted Krywanczyk and 2nd Assistant Chief Bill Kearns to select the winner.
“This is never easy because it takes the whole department to be successful,” he said.
And the department has been successful in its long history, according to speakers at Saturday night’s annual banquet.
“Our fire department speaks for itself,” Village Trustee Albert “Herb” Deshaies said. “We have second to none in the whole north country north of Syracuse. We get behind them whatever they do.”
“We’re so proud of the work that you do and everything you do for this community,” Town Councilman Albert N. Nicola said, thanking them for “putting your lives on the line.”
Baylee Carroll, this year’s fire queen, said she was appreciative of the honor to represent those who sacrificed their time to go out on calls, undergo training and visit schools as part of their Fire Prevention Week efforts leading up to the annual banquet.
She said her mother’s father was a firefighter for more than 60 years and could recall his pager going off occasionally while they were visiting.
When those calls came in, Ms. Carroll said, firefighters were “randomly stopping whatever you are doing to go help people you don’t even know.”
“You have all been there for every one of us in this community. This community here is very proud,” said the Rev. Judith Van Kennen, pastor of Emmanuel Congregational Church, which was struck by a fire on May 10, 2007.
In addition to naming their Fireman of the Year, the chiefs also recognized other organizations they had worked with throughout the year, including the department’s drivers, its exempt firefighters, its ladies auxiliary, the village and town of Massena, Helena and Louisville fire departments, Massena Rescue Squad, the county’s Office of Emergency Services, St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police and Massena Electric Department.
They also recognized fellow firefighters for years of service. Gary Donaldson was recognized for 45 years of service, David Sedlock was recognized for 40 years of service, and George Brouse and Fred Kellison were recognized for 15 years of service.
Is Your Family or Agency Ready for a Disaster?
How would your family or agency react or prepare for a possible natural disaster? We have included a link below for individuals, agencies, and organizations to access training videos to help prepare for these events. These videos cover such topics as preparedness, response, and recovery as well as many other areas.
Along these lines the Massena Volunteer Fire Department will be hosting a Disaster Preparedness Course on Tuesday November 26th beginning at 7:00 p.m. Class size is limited to the first 100 registrants so pre-registration is highly encouraged. To register, or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the flyer at the bottom of this page.