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Ignorance is bliss...until it burns your house down

Post in 'The Inglenook' started by Hearth Mistress, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. Hearth Mistress

    Hearth Mistress Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2012
    Messages:
    852
    Loc:
    Pt Pleasant, PA (SE PA)
    There is an old house down the road that was split into a duplex and has a revolving door of renters. I pass it a few times a week out running errands and always notice blue/black dark scary smoke billowing from one of the old brick chimneys (there is one on each end of the house). In the beginning of the season, I thought maybe I was just seeing a rough start up but then noticed that EVERY time I passed it, regardless of the time of day, same smoke, thick and dangerous.

    It is right across the street from a little general store so a few weeks ago I parked and asked the shop owner if they knew anything about the tenants, figuring they were across the street and would pop in for stuff. He told me it was a single mom with 2 kids. i told him why I was asking and he noticed it too but thought maybe it was coal or something. He said it stinks really bad but just figured it was her stove.

    Trying to be helpful, I walked over concerned with the amount and color of the smoke. My neighbor has a coal furnace, it doesn't do that. She came to the door and as I began to tell her about the smoke she dismissed me, she told me she was an "avid burner" and just bought that "seasoned oak" pointing to an uncovered pile of clearly just cut wood and everything was fine. I could see the stove from the door, but the glass was so black, you couldn't really see the fire, only smell it from outside. She told me to pretty much mind my own business and closed the door.

    Fast forward to today....My husband came home tonight and told me he noticed this morning on the way to work that her side of the house was burnt bad, chimney was knocked down, 2nd floor windows gone as well as part of the roof. They were out putting tarps up when he came home. Knowing I tried to warn her, he knew what happened....chimney fire, no doubt.

    I tried to warn her but she didn't want to hear it. I'm going to go down to talk to the shop owner in the morning, I hope her and her kids got out. I feel bad, I am not an expert any of this but she didn't want to listen. I feel awful.

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  2. loadstarken

    loadstarken Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    Messages:
    227
    Loc:
    Redmond, WA
    Sounds like you did all that you could have don and I hope everyone is ok!
    If the store owner doesn't know any details swing by the closest fire station and see if they'll tell you anything.

    There is a house by me that is always pumping tons of smoke out and I wanted to help them out but they have a gated yard and some not so friendly dogs. I printed up some stuff about how to season wood and tips on chimney cleaning and mailed it to them. Nothing has changed. The smoke continues and they even burn thru level 2 burn bands that we have up here in WA.
  3. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2007
    Messages:
    7,115
    Loc:
    N.E. Penna
    You know how it goes

    [​IMG]

    We all choose to take risks. Sadly, she picked poorly when it comes to taking chances.
  4. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Merrimack Valley, MA
    Good for trying. Some people just can't be reached. I know of a few, and they are stubborn people. One I fear will have a chimney fire. They are also not members on this site.

    Maybe funds were tight and she was trying to make the best of a situation. I really can't say without knowing the story behind the incident.
  5. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    Good point, I see this a lot in my area.

    Often times, folks do know better but they are simply doing as best they can with what they have.

    Or, sadly, I see many cases of folks who are simply too lazy to do (insert all sorts of things here) correctly.
  6. Hearth Mistress

    Hearth Mistress Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    852
    Loc:
    Pt Pleasant, PA (SE PA)
    Between my neighbor and I, the only burners near by, have 6+ cords easy of "real" seasoned ready to burn css in a barn, not to mention the cords stacked at our houses for "now" burning. I offered to bring her a load in the Rhino to see if it burnt better for her after seeing the crap someone sold her as '"seasoned oak" but she didn't want it. I guess being a perfect stranger, she might have been slightly paranoid by me knocking on her door but I tried. I just hope they are ok.
  7. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    You did what you thought was best and that's noble. Don't feel badly. I know with my luck, if it were me, and I delivered a load of truly seasoned wood to a home like that, it would be the first time they ever had an actual hot non-smouldering fire and that would ignite the 15 gallons of creosote in the chimney and I'd be receiving a letter from some attorney :(
    blacktail likes this.
  8. Hearth Mistress

    Hearth Mistress Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    852
    Loc:
    Pt Pleasant, PA (SE PA)
    Thanks Pen, I never thought of it like that, my luck too! My neighbor just sent me a text as he knew I tried to warn her too. He ran into our fire chief at the grocery store and got the scoop. It was a chimney fire. Creosote was so bad it looked like La Brea Tar Pits gooped on everything. The family got out and are ok. Evidently they were in the living room last night when the stove started to roar and it started to sound like rain. Knowing it wasn't raining, the woman went outside and saw the fire shooting out the chimney. The chief said when they got there there was so much crap shooting out, it looked like a volcano with lava coming out. I'm glad everyone is safe, that was really weighing on my mind.
    pen and Elusive like this.
  9. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    Good for you for trying to educate someone Hearth Mistress . . . but as others said . . . you can only do so much.

    In my job I've pretty much come to the conclusion that there are many folks out there who either through laziness, ignorance, lack of funds (or in most cases prioritzing where their funds should be spent) or just plain stupidity that will hear the safety message . . . but will fail to take action . . . and often times someone pays the price for their actions . . . or inactions.

    That said . . . every once in a while you will run across someone who will listen . . . someone who will make a change in their behavior . . . someone who will take the extra minute, spend a few dollars on safety equipment instead of that extra meal out . . . and if you're very, very lucky may one day come up to you and thank you for helping educate them on how to keep them and their family safer. It's rare . . . but it's happened to me a few times.
  10. Hearth Mistress

    Hearth Mistress Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    852
    Loc:
    Pt Pleasant, PA (SE PA)
    Well, I owe all of YOU guys a BIG thank you because I was a mess when I first got our stove last year. If it wasn't for you guys all helping me troubleshoot (my stupidity most of the time) I very well could have ended up a tragic story too. My burning experience was with fireplaces and old cast iron stoves from the 70's, waaaay different than these EPA stoves :)

    I don't belong to any other forums. I stare at a computer all day for work managing 100+ employees all over the US so I don't like my spare time to be blurry eyed on a computer too. This is the exception, I can sit here for hours reading and researching, laughing until I cry sometimes.

    I wish we all lived closer so I could meet you guys, I'd sit, shoot the chit and drink with any of ya' all ;)
    loon likes this.
  11. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    2,585
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    Quebec, Canada
    Jeni: don't feel guilty, you did what you could.

    Personally, I don't care if she was strapped for cash, with 5000 kids. Safety first. She no longer has a house to live in and from what you described, burning wood was the problem (unseasoned wood likely with and old school masonry chimney). So $500 could have saved thousands and potentially lives. And you even offered her wood!

    I know I gave a cord to a guy last year who couldn't get his stove top past 300F. All his wood was green and hissing! He now has 7 cords to get ahead of the game.

    You live too far for us to drink. But i will think of you next time I have one!
    milleo likes this.
  12. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    5,740
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    Northern MI - in the mitten
    My hat is off to you Jeni.
    People like you are the ones who make a positive difference in this crazy world.
    Maybe we should do a march or something. Everyone could bring a split of dry wood, and a drink of choice.

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