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Fireplace Ashes Cause Fire Resulting in Total Loss
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06 February 2016   Don Devendorf, Fire Marshal

Family Displaced Following Total Loss Prescott House Fire

On Saturday February 6, 2016, at approximately 3AM, the Prescott Regional Communications Center received a call from a neighbor reporting an explosion and shed fire behind a home on Mosher Lane in the Prescott Heights area of town.

Prescott Fire Department and the Central Yavapai Fire District personnel responded to the scene with 4 Engine companies, a Rescue, a Battalion Chief, a Division Chief, a Utility truck, as well as the Prescott Police Department, Life Line Ambulance, and a Fire Investigator. The first arriving Police units found a fully engulfed shed behind a 1200 square foot single family home. PD identified that the occupants were out of the home. Within 1-2 minutes, the shed fire extended into the main structure and quickly involved 50% of the home. Upon arrival, fire crews put three hoselines into action to knock down the fire while PD units evacuated surrounding homes. It took units approximately 30 minutes to knock down the main fires in the home and large shed and another three hours to find and extinguish hot spots. Initial efforts to suppress the shed fire were hampered by an energized electrical wire that had burned through and was lying on the ground in the back yard.

The occupants of the home at the time of the fire were a 71 year old female, a 16 year old female, and a 2 ½ old little girl. The older resident reported that her dog started making noise, which woke her up. She then investigated finding the shed fully involved. She woke up the 16 and 2 ½ years old occupants and they all exited the structure. Responders reported hearing no smoke alarms sounding when they arrived on scene. There were no injuries to the occupants. The home and shed appear to be a total loss. Damage is estimated at $250,000 for the buildings and contents.

The homeowner, believing them to be cool and out, had emptied the ashes from her wood stove into a cardboard box on Friday afternoon. She placed the box on a concrete sidewalk next to the wooden storage shed. Initial investigation determined that location to be the origin of the fire but further investigation will be taking place.

This is the second structure fire in 6 days in Prescott that appears to have a connection to the unsafe disposal for wood ashes. Luckily there have been no injuries or deaths. These types of fires are easily preventable. Woodstove and fireplace users are urged to dispose of ashes in steel containers, with tight fitting lids, and stored away from combustibles. No matter how cold you think the ashes are, they are only completely safe when mixed with water and made into a slurry.