At approximately 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24, Eagle River Fire Protection District (ERFPD) was dispatched to a report of a dumpster fire on Eagle Street in Minturn. The residents were able to partially extinguish the flames by the time Engine 5 arrived on scene.
Crews were able to quickly finish putting the fire out, and no injuries or property damage other than the container of origin were reported. It appears that disposal of the previous day’s hot fireplace ashes, combined with lawn clippings, smoldered for some time before melting through a plastic trash can. Once oxygen was introduced to the equation, it grew into a fire large enough to be noticed by neighbors.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage occurs and dozens of families are displaced because of fires in their homes that are caused by the improper disposal of fireplace ashes. Extra care should always be used in the storage and final disposal of any ashes, including cigarette and charcoal ashes.
“We’re moving into that time of year where we start to see an increase in these types of calls,” said Tracy LeClair, ERFPD Community Risk Manager. “Most people forget that fireplace and wood stove ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days.”
ERFPD offers these tips for how to properly dispose of fireplace ashes:
Make sure there are no hot spots left in the ashes. This is done either by soaking them in water or leaving them sit for a few days if practical (and then double checking them for hot spots). Besides doing this for the above-mentioned appliances, this also holds true for cigarette and charcoal grill ashes.
All ashes should be stored in a heavy fire-resistant (metal) container with a tight fitting cover (buckets made especially for storage of ashes are available at many area retailers). They should NEVER be disposed of in a plastic garbage bag or can, a cardboard box, or paper grocery bag. Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes.
This metal container should then be placed outside the home, away from anything that can burn. It should NOT be placed next to the firewood pile, up against the garage, on or under a wooden deck, or under a porch. Wet the ashes down before storing.
After sitting in this metal container for a few days to a week, the ashes are then safe to dispose of in your trash or garden, which allows the nutrients to return to the soil. Make sure all dry leaves have been removed from the area before dumping your ashes in either a garden or flower bed that is away from the house, and remember to moisten the area after dumping.