Improperly Discarded Embers Cause Greenwich House Fire

Less than a month after a fatal Stamford fire that killed five, another house is set ablaze by fireplace embers.

Fireplace embers discarded in a cardboard box and doused with a hose, apparently reignited and set fire to the exterior of an attached garage at a Greenwich home this week.

According to Deputy Greenwich Fire Marshal Rob Natale, to staff living quarters located over the three-car garage at 37 Khakum Wood Rd. on Monday afternoon.

"The fire started from improperly discarded fireplaced embers. He cleaned out the fireplaced and them the embers in a cardboard box and thought he soaked it with a garden hose and put the box outside, next to the attached garage," Natale said.

The fire, reported by the alarm company hired by the homeowners, was reported shortly after 3:30 p.m. Jan. 16. The company reported that smoke detectors were activated. Deputy Fire Chief Brian Koczak has said there was heavy fire shooting from the roof area of the garage as firefighters arrived.

Natale said an employee of the family living in the home who cleaned a fireplace and placed the box outside the home. He would not identify either party. According to 's records, the nearly 3-acre property with an assessed value of $5.48 million is an 8-bedroom, 11-bath colonial home, was purchased in 1991 by the 37 Khakum Wood Road Corp. Khakum Wood is a private enclave of homes between Round Hill and Clapboard Ridge roads.

"It's unfortunate — this could've been avoided," Natale said. "No matter how much we preach it ... I just can't believe that people think that putting ashes in a cardboard box or a Rubbermaid container and hosing it down" will extinguish the hot embers, Natale added.

He estimated that the ember-laden box was placed outside the garage "a half-hour, 45 minutes before it was reported from the alarm company ... (after receiving the fire alarm) the occupant saw the side of the house on fire."

The fire spread up the exterior wall of the garage and "got into the roof area and made its way into the living space (above the garage) and blew out a window," Natale said. He did not have a dollar estimate on the damage.

Natale stressed that any fireplace embers should be "disposed in a metal container with a lid. Take it outside the property and do not place it next to the house or in the woods with dry leaves. ... Place it away from the house."

Natale took the opportunity to remind homeowners of the when three girls and their grandparents perished in an early morning blaze. Fire investigators there have said fireplace embers discarded in a container and placed either inside a mudroom or just outside the Shippan Avenue home ignited the blaze that remains under investigation.

"You see a tragedy in Stamford ... and we were lucky enough that no one was injured in this fire," Natale added.

"There is no immediate need to clean a fireplace," Natale said. Embers can remain hot for several days. "I do not clean my fireplace every time I use it," he added.


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