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Week-Old Fireplace Ashes Blamed For Uxbridge House Fire

By Bobby Sisk, WBZ-TV
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UXBRIDGE (CBS) – Around 10:35 Monday night, the call came into the Uxbridge Fire Department. “The homeowner was sleeping and awoke and saw a glow outside of her window. She went downstairs and saw the fire on the porch,” said Chief Bill Kessler.

When the first officer arrived there, he reported the fire was fully engulfed. “The whole porch over on the side here was completely covered. I mean on the whole porch the flames were flying up,” said neighbor Kevin Mason who saw lights and came outside. The Chief says when the mother saw her house was on fire, she ran back upstairs and woke her three children. They were able to get outside uninjured. “They ran out of the house barefoot and without coats,” said Chief Kessler.

The fire did an estimated $80,000 in damage. The cause, according to Kessler was ashes that after a week sitting in the fireplace, the homeowner thought were out. She’d put them on the porch in a paper bag the day before. “Most people would think that after a week the ashes would be cooled down, but the ashes can stay hot for many days without knowing it,” he explained. A member of his own department learned that same thing this past fall. “One of our own firefighters had ashes in a metal pail for several days and thought they were okay and dumped them out back. Within about an hour of that time we’re in his backyard putting out a brush fire,” he said. His advice is to always use a metal container away from your house, but also wet the ashes down. Chief Kessler also suggested using snow while it’s on the ground to help put the ashes out. “The best ash is a wet ash,” the Chief advised.

After what happened just across the street, Kevin Mason, who was already careful, says he’ll take the chief’s advice. “I’ll definitely start wetting them down. I know I’ve had fires where I won’t have a fire in the fire pit but will leave the ashes in there and then go to scoop them out and I’ll find red ones in there and definitely have a fire,” he said.

The American Red Cross helped the family that lived in the home, giving them emergency money for food, stuffed animals for the children and toiletries. Chief Kessler is thankful the fire was discovered when it was. “She says she doesn’t understand why she woke up, she doesn’t know what woke her up but her waking up found that fire before it was able to get into the house,” he said.

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