FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, December 27, 2016


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Contact: Robert Geist, DEP, (609) 633-7588

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Bob Considine, DEP, (609) 292-2994


 TRENTON –  The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Fire Safety and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are reminding residents that during the cold winter weather and annual home heating season fireplaces and wood stoves command a set of fire safety cautions, independent of those for conventional heating units, though proper chimney maintenance is common to both.  

Fire statistics show that there were 23,100 chimney or fireplace fires in 2013 and ten related fatalities, and a consequent property loss that year of $109 million nationwide. Fires typically happen at the beginning of the heating season every year, but are almost always preventable with the proper maintenance and cleaning. 

Fire experts say a primary concern is the practice of dealing with the ashes left from a fireplace or wood stove fire. A Christmas fire in Connecticut in 2011, that took the lives of three young children, was found to have been caused by the improper disposal of fireplace ashes which contained embers that were not completely extinguished. In the last month, the Forest Fire Service - Northern Division and local fire departments responded to 20 separate reports of fire near and in local woods in roughly 100 square miles of the “Division A” section of North Jersey as a result of stove ashes that contained still smoldering embers and other sources of fire ignition. 

The Division of Fire Safety and the Forest Fire Service recommend the following steps to properly dispose of fireplace or wood stove ash: 

  • Scoop the ashes using a large metal trowel or pan, scoop all the ashes out of the fireplace. Lift large pieces out with fireplace tongs, if necessary.
  • Put the ashes in a metal bucket of water. Stir them to ensure that they are all completely submerged, and let them sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Pour out the water and empty the bucket in your garden or lawn. Wood ash works as a fertilizer for plants. 

Experts with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service note that improper disposal of ashes from fireplaces and woodstoves can cause both structural and wildland fires. Improperly extinguished wood ashes can retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days and high winds – even in the cold winter - can uncover still-hot embers and start a wildfire if conditions are right.  So don’t take the chance of accidentally starting a wildfire and use the simple steps above to ensure a warm and safe winter at your home. 

In addition to these safety steps, fire safety authorities recommend these general tips when using alternative heating units such as fireplaces and wood stoves. 

  • Have your new fireplace installed by a certified, insured professional installer and schedule annual inspections by that professional of all your household chimneys. Make sure your home is equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms.                          
  • Check smoke and CO alarms regularly to make sure they are in working condition and have the necessary batteries. (an easy way to remember to do this is make it part of your routine when you adjust the clocks each year for Daylight Savings Time, and don’t forget check the date of the alarm manufacture, as an alarm older than 10 years should be replaced).   
  • Each level of your home should be equipped with smoke and CO alarms, and should be located inside or near sleeping areas.
  • Equip your home with a fire extinguisher -- and learn how to use it before you need it!
  • Keep flammable materials three feet away from the fire and heat source.
  • Never burn anything in a fireplace that the manufacturer hasn't approved.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.   
  • Keep small children and pets away from the fireplace. Consider using a physical barrier, such as a gate, to keep children at a distance.
  • Check to be sure that the fire is completely out or gas/electric appliances have been turned off before you leave your house or go to sleep. Consider a glass enclosure for the fireplace hearth. It makes it both safe and energy efficient.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer's safety and maintenance instructions for your particular fireplace. 

For more information on the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, visit: 

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code and other community risk reduction strategies, as well as certification and ongoing training for the state career and volunteer firefighter corps. 


Tammori Petty
or Emike Omogbai
(609) 292-6055