Brome-Missisquoi MRC sees significant rise in incidents involving hot ashes

By Taylor McClure – Special to Brome County News

Brome-Missisquoi Fire Prevention, has reported a significant increase in incidents involving hot ashes from wood stoves in 2021. On average, there are usually three cases a year across the entire Brome-Missisquoi MRC territory, but the group has already confirmed around 10 cases and it is expecting that number to rise.

“It’s really a lot more than usual. Three cases, would be similar to previous years, but 10 already is alarming,” explained Jean-Philippe Lagacé, fire safety coordinator. “We don’t want people to be scared to install them (wood stoves), but we want people to do things securely.”

The group collects statistics from all of the municipalities in the MRC and has discovered that many people are not properly disposing of their hot ashes when cleaning out their wood stove. “Some people are putting their hot ashes in a garbage bin. You can’t always tell if they are hot when moving them to a container. There are things in the bin that can catch on fire and a fire breaks out on the side of the house.”

Lagacé highlighted that often the fire crew shows up and the damage is limited to the outside of the house because someone saw the fire, but that is not always the case. The group recommends buying a special container for hot ashes to avoid these incidents. “We recommend leaving the ashes for seven days and to buy a metal container. They are sold in hardware stores and they have a raised bottom and a metal lid.”

While the group cannot confirm exactly why there has been such a significant increase in these cases.

“It started with the period of the pandemic because people were home more often so they were using their wood stove a lot more. At the beginning of 2021, we had many chimney fires caused by poor maintenance. They take regular cleaning if they are used more.”

With a new “wave” of incidents involving hot ashes, the group has upped its game in making residents aware of what they can do to ensure their safety. “Every five years we visit each residence, and we ask firefighters and preventionists to emphasize this information. We are going further this year in assuring that each of our public interventions bring awareness to hot ashes..”

Other recommendation from the group include:
– Regularly empty the ashes from the fireplace.
– Never use a vacuum cleaner to collect hot ashes.
– Place the container outside on a non-combustible surface.
– Keep a minimum distance of one metre between the metal container and the walls of the house, garage, shed and any other combustible material such as a hedge or canvas shelter.
– The ashes should rest in this container at least 7 days before being disposed of in another container such as the organic waste bin or garbage bin. To that effect, also consult your municipality’s recommendations.

For more information on fire safety, recommendations, and tips, visit the Brome-Missisquoi Fire Prevention’s Facebook page at for educational video capsules and important publications.

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