Officials were first able to rule out all natural causes, such as lightning and downed power lines, and then honed in on a pile of ashes found in the woods in back of one of the homes. Although the homeowner believed the ashes were cool when he discarded them, investigators were able to determine that the ashes were hot enough to spark the fire.
Fire Officials would like to remind citizens of the proper way to dispose of ashes from a fireplace or woodstove:
• Store ashes in a metal container that can be tightly closed with a metal lid. Dump ashes into the container. Douse the ashes with water. Place the lid on the container and place the closed container outside your home away from combustible materials. Leave ashes in the container for several days before disposing of them. Wood ash, once completely cooled, can safely be disposed.
• DO NOT store your metal ash container on your deck, in your garage or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from those hot coals to nearby flammable items.
• DO NOT place hot ashes in a dumpster. There are certainly other combustible materials already in the dumpster.
• DO NOT dispose of ashes in paper, plastic or cardboard containers.
• DO NOT assume the ashes are cold and pour them onto the ground (even into a hole) where leaves can blow onto them or the wind can stir up sparks.
• Once you are POSITIVE your container of ashes is “cold,” place in a pile and prepare your container for the next load.
• Teach other family members about the dangers associated with hot ash disposal.
• Be careful with ashes around areas you might not consider as combustible during wetter times, such as mulched flowerbeds and lawns that are drought stricken.
For more information on how to dispose of and use ashes, go to www.dof.virginia.gov.