Chimney fire spreads into attic; smoke alarm saves occupant

KINGSTON – A working smoke alarm is credited with saving a local man’s life when it awakened him after fire broke out in his Kingston home.

Despite the fact that the man had attempted to squelch the flames himself two times before calling firefighters, damage was limited to a small area, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Michele Laboda reported.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue was called to the downtown-area home for a possible chimney fire just before 8 a.m. Tuesday when the man returned after running errands to find smoke coming from the 700 square-feet home’s attic vents. Firefighters finished extinguishing the smoldering joists and insulation in the attic above the woodstove.

The man rents a room from the homeowner who’s currently out of town.

After letting the fire in the woodstove go out before retiring around 11 p.m. Monday, the man was awakened by the sounding smoke alarm at around 2 a.m. Upon finding flames shooting down from the attic around the home’s chimney pipe, the man retrieved a garden hose from outside and knocked down the fire. He was unable to go back to sleep. About 90 minutes later, the man was awake to notice when fire broke out again. Once again, he snuffed out the visible flames. However, incompletely extinguished, the flames rekindled a few hours later. This time, the man called 911.

An investigator from the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office determined that the fire likely started in wooden joists immediately adjacent to a woodstove chimney. The single-wall assembly had become compromised, allowing heat to escape into the attic space where combustible materials ignited. Damage was limited to the chimney itself, the 4-square-foot area surrounding the pipe in the attic and the carpet around the woodstove hearth.

Firefighters and the man agree that the smoke alarm saved his life, alerting him before the fire grew to life and/or property-threatening proportions. According to the National Fire Protection Association, two-thirds of all home fire deaths occurred where there were no working smoke alarms present.

Knowing the importance of these life-saving devices, NKF&R firefighters carry smoke alarms on their rigs and will install them upon request. To make an appointment, call them at 297-3619.

Officials believe that maintenance might have prevented this morning’s incident, and recommend that woodstove/fireplace chimneys be cleaned and inspected by a certified professional at least once a year. They also strongly encourage citizens to call 911 upon discovery of a fire to ensure the blaze is safely and completely extinguished.

The man and his landlord were not displaced, and there were no injuries to firefighters or civilians. The homeowner is insured.


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