Fire caused by squirrels a lesson for homeowners

Fire caused by squirrels a lesson for homeowners

A chimney fire in Peachtree City provided a helpful lesson for homeowners to make sure squirrels or other critters aren’t hanging out in your attic.
According to Peachtree City Fire Department spokesman Ron Mundy, a house fire on North Fairfield Drive was likely caused when heat from the home’s chimney flue ignited squirrel nesting material in the attic.
The Peachtree City Fire Department responded to the fire and got it under control, but not before damage was done to the house.
“The smoke and heat that goes up through the flue system heated the metal flue to the point that the nesting materials gathered around the pipe ignited,” Mundy said.
While chimney flues are typically well contained, they can still conduct enough heat  to start a fire of this type, Mundy said.
He said the area the house was located in is “heavily wooded” and “tends to have a lot of problems with squirrels.”
For homeowners, Mundy suggested the best thing to do is “be attentive,” and aware of squirrels on the roof or any signs they have created a hole to access the attic.
As a preventative measure, he suggested homes should be inspected by a licensed professional. The best time to do so, he noted, was prior to the “heating season” as temperature drops.
“It’s not uncommon for squirrels and other animals to nest in chimneys during the summer months,” Munday said. “They’ll actually sometimes build nests in the interior pipe itself.”
Mundy said a licensed professional should inspect the chimney for signs of nesting, or even to clear materials such as fallen branches that could catch fire.
The Fire Marshals Office released the following notice to inform homeowners:
“Winter is coming, and if the predictions hold true, we are in for a colder and wetter winter than last year. Already this year we have seen below average temperatures and the forecast this week is for a big artic chill. Last winter we saw two snow/ice storms that brought down trees, knocked out power and made roads impassable. People turned to their fireplaces for warmth.  Already this season, Peachtree City Fire Rescue has seen an increase in chimney fire calls. This includes one fire that heavily damaged a home after a squirrel nest that was built inside the chimney chase caught fire and spread into the attic.
If you have a fireplace, whether wood burning or gas logs, it is wise to provide some basic maintenance so your chimney can provide safe cozy comfort for the upcoming season. The fireplace, flue pipe and chimney chase needs to be inspected and cleaned at least once a year. Creosote builds up on the flue liner and can ignite causing a chimney fire which will damage the flue pipe and could allow the fire to spread into hidden areas. The use of gas logs often causes carbon partials to build up on the logs and in the flue system. Severe restriction can cause a back up of deadly carbon monoxide in the house.
Squirrels and other wildlife can and do find their way into chimney chases, where it is warm and dry, to build nests. These nests are usually made of dried pine needles, leaves and twigs which are easily combustible, especially if they are against a hot flue pipe.
There are several chimney sweeps in the local area, all of which can be found in the phone book or online using a simple search. A professional chimney sweep should not only clean the fireplace and flue pipe, but should also inspect for damage and evidence of wildlife nesting. If you do have a chimney fire, do not use the fireplace again until it has been professionally inspected. For further information, contact the Peachtree City Fire Marshal’s Office.”