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For Immediate Release
January 30, 2014
For more information contact:
State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan
NH State Fire Marshal's Office
33 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03305
VOICE: 603-223-4289
FAX: 603-223-4294

Chimney Construction - Are you safe?

Concord, NH - NH New Hampshire State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan would like to remind all citizens to be extra careful during the winter heating season. For the past twenty plus years, the leading cause of structure fires in New Hampshire has been directly related to solid fuel burning appliances.

"In New Hampshire, there is a predominance of homes that utilize the natural resources available and plentiful supply of wood for heating," Degnan said. "Like any other machine, solid fuel burning appliances require regular maintenance." When analysts examine the New Hampshire fire incident data, they learn that lack of proper maintenance of the solid fuel burning appliance is the most likely cause.

However, other causes are also prevalent, such as design and installation issues. Solid fuel burning appliances include fireplaces, woodstoves, pellet stoves and coal stoves. There are codes that define the parameters for the proper installation of solid fuel burning appliances. Some of these codes involve criteria for the proper construction of a masonry chimney. Others outline the safe distances for stoves to combustible materials. It is incumbent upon the homeowner to make sure that their particular installation is safe and within the criteria set forth in the applicable codes. Some of these examinations are easier than others. For example, it might be a little more difficult for a homeowner to check to make sure that their chimney has the required two (2) inches of clearance from combustibles from the masonry to wood such as framing, a requirement that has been in place in various codes and standards since the early 1900’s. On the other hand measuring the distance from a woodstove to the wall behind it would be easier. Some communities have demonstrated an increase in fires related to non-compliant masonry chimney construction. For instance, despite the fact that building and fire codes in New Hampshire have required the two (2) inch clearance to combustibles, the town of Amherst has discovered several fires which revealed that the clearance was not there. This prompted the town to take a proactive public education stance and advise their citizens to check their installations.

"The bottom line is that we want people to be safe," Degnan said. "Homeowners must do whatever is necessary to ensure their own safety. Checking their appliances and chimneys is one of those things that everyone must do that is just as important as checking your smoke detector and buckling your seatbelt."

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