1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)

Wood stove and blown in cellulose insulation cause of house fire!

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Don2222, May 21, 2013.

  1. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,154
    Loc:
    Salem NH
    Hello

    I never cared for the quick blown in stuff and here is why.

    The ground newspaper is supposed to be treated with Borax to prevent ignition. What happened?

    http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=8683892

    LAYTON -- A house fire in Layton displaced a family and caused thousands of dollars in damage Saturday.

    Fire investigators said it started near the chimney flue in the attic. They said the insulation was too close to the hot pipe and caught fire -- a problem that could become more common as the winter sets in.

    The house, located near 1500 North and Cherry Lane, was declared unlivable. The cost of the damage to the home was estimated at $85,000.

    "The past two days we've had two fires -- chimney fire-related -- so this is a concern to us right now," said Doug Bitton with the Layton City Fire Department.

    The concern was the fire's origin.

    "This vent pipe has a lot of white impingement marks right here," Bitton said.

    Bitton investigated for Layton City Fire and said the white marks show where the insulation ignited.


    The homeowner had cellulose insulation blown in this spring, thinking it would save energy and money. Just the opposite happened, however.

    The family lit their wood burning stove around 4 p.m. Saturday. By 8:00, they knew something was wrong.

    "First the electrical went off in the family room, which surprised them, and then they saw a different haze -- color of light -- out the rear of their home," said Bitton.

    They evacuated just in time for crews to start their work on the attic. The fire spread through the insulation, so they had to remove most of it.

    An hour later the fire was out, and the family was forced out as well.

    Bitton said all families need to check the clearance between their flues and the insulation. Most building codes recommend 1 to 2 inches of space, depending on the pipe.

    The U.S. Department of Energy suggests putting in a clearance dam or a protective sleeve.

    "We don't want any radiant heat hitting this type of cellulose insulation that could cause a possible combustion," said Bitton.

    Bitton said local code officials can help people make the right adjustments.
    [​IMG]

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. webby3650

    webby3650 Master of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    4,678
    Loc:
    southern Indiana
    In the pic, it looks like the pipe has Zero clearance to the 2x4.
    Backwoods Savage and PapaDave like this.
  3. webby3650

    webby3650 Master of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    4,678
    Loc:
    southern Indiana
    Unfortunately, the wood stove will get the blame, not the insulating contractor. Because we all know, wood stoves are dangerous!
    Joful and Backwoods Savage like this.
  4. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Messages:
    1,195
    Loc:
    NE Ohio
    Too bad, and such simple little thing that caused it
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  5. Mitch Newton

    Mitch Newton Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2012
    Messages:
    173
    Loc:
    Beavercreek, Ohio
    The ground newspaper is supposed to be treated with Borax to prevent ignition. What So Don, what do you recommend if someone is adding attic insulation? The rolls of unfaced batting?
  6. webby3650

    webby3650 Master of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Messages:
    4,678
    Loc:
    southern Indiana
    An attic insulation shield is the thing to do. It can be made with a piece of sheet metal in just a few minutes. An experienced insulation contractor should be experienced with this.

    Around here we have the weatherization outfit that gets government money to go around and add cellulose to lower income households. They have been known to cause problems with things like soffit ventilation, and can lights. They even blow it into mobile home bellies, making it nearly impossible to make future repairs and causing water lines to freeze and burst.
    It wouldn't surprise me if it was a program like this that was intended to "help" this family. It's unfortunate.
  7. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,154
    Loc:
    Salem NH
  8. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    15,643
    Loc:
    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    Yes.

    Attached Files:

    BrotherBart likes this.
  9. Mitch Newton

    Mitch Newton Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2012
    Messages:
    173
    Loc:
    Beavercreek, Ohio
    Where's the video?
  10. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,767
    Loc:
    SE MI
    Big difference between fire resistant and fire retardant. Cellulose insulation is treated with boric acid to be fire retardant. It's still gonna burn.

    Nothing wrong with product, just the installation.
  11. bag of hammers

    bag of hammers Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Messages:
    1,189
    Loc:
    Northern ON
    Agree.

    In my old attic, this stuff was blown overtop of all the junk that the PO had stored up there, out onto soffits, etc. Big pile in one spot, almost nothing in another. Looks like they just stood at the attic access with the flex hose and let 'er rip in any direction. What a mess. Took me a day to clean it up. No woodstove there, but a great example of a shoddy job.
  12. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2011
    Messages:
    703
    Loc:
    Long Island, NY
    Even with the 2" clearance not being respected there had to be something else going on. That stove was burning really hot or there was a flue fire of some sort. Untreated paper ignites at about 450° Fahrenheit and this was treated insulation. For the outside of class-A pipe to exceed that temperature long enough to ignite the insulation must have been a combination of errors.

    The installer failed on the insulation. It looks like whoever installed the pipe did not respect clearances to the wood framing. The stove must have been running hot or the flue hasn't been cleaned in a while causing a flue fire. Plenty of blame to go around as is usual with a lot of fires that are ignited by stoves.

    All I know is when I have a contractor do a job I ask questions before and inspect the work after. If there is anything I'm not comfortable with I get better answers or it is re-done to my comfort level.

    KaptJaq
    Joful and jeff_t like this.
  13. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,767
    Loc:
    SE MI
    I wonder what has happened in the 3.5 years since the incident.
  14. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2009
    Messages:
    2,419
    Loc:
    SW Virginia
    Related video showing a comparison of fires in fiberglass, cellulose, and uninsulated structures.


    Edit: I have no dog in this fight guys. Just thought it was interesting.
  15. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

  16. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2011
    Messages:
    703
    Loc:
    Long Island, NY
    Video sponsored by a cellulose insulation trade group?

    We have a two and a half year old fire caused by a variety of factors.

    The main things I am getting out of this discussion are:
    1. Follow code and the manual on install.
    2. If anything is modified anywhere near the fireplace/stove/flue make sure it does not affect the compliance to code/manual.

    KaptJaq
  17. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    9,413
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    Regular old blown in fiberglass is made from rocks too. Been around forever, cheap, common, a known product and not made from wood fibers like cellulose.

    I don't know which I prefer, fiberglass or cellulose but blown in product is the only way to go in an attic. It is foolish to try and cut and fit batts when the blown in is cheaper and superior in performance.

    A lot of bad things have to happen before you can test your insulation for fire resistance.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    49,657
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    Based on the few pics available it looks like there are multiple issues. The pipe does not look like class A, it looks more like air-cooled 1700F stove pipe. Second question is how this is coupled to a brick fireplace chimney? Third are suspect clearance to combustibles. And last, the engine of this fire - a Franklin fireplace. If they were burning crappy wood in this setup, they were asking for a chimney fire. Improper cellulose insulation installation (no insulation shield) just provided the fuse for the fire. There are lots of other issues here. I hope the homeowners didn't try to blame just the insulation.
  19. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,154
    Loc:
    Salem NH
    Good info BeGreen, That really helps to explain what happened and how it can be prevented. Thanks!
  20. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    9,413
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    They would likely blame whatever will most easily convince the insurance company to cover the $85000+ in damages and I wouldn't blame them a bit.
  21. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    49,657
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    I'm not talking about insurance. Dismissing it as simply the insulation would be a mistake for the homeowners. The point being is that if this is a home-brewed chimney setup, improperly installed, and they are burning in a dangerous stove, they need to learn from this experience to avoid repeating it. The article is from 2009. Hope since then they've visited hearth.com.
  22. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2008
    Messages:
    5,740
    Loc:
    Northern MI - in the mitten
    Unfortunate for the homeowners, and I feel for them.
    However, I've said this before, neither the stove nor the insulation is at fault here. Poor installation is the cause, which is a human problem which won't go away as long as we remain ignorant to the correct/safe ways to do things.
    Can lead a horse to water, but can't make him think.
    Rant over.
  23. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,154
    Loc:
    Salem NH
    X2, and I want to also say that one of my neighbors still feels perfectly safe burning wood because 25 years ago, when their wood stove and oil boiler was connected to the same clay flue in the cinder block chimney, it passed inspection because the entry into the same flue was 12 inches apart. Also the bare copper oil line was buried into the concrete. Perfectly fine in those days. So my point is that even though the codes are well intended, when it comes down to it, it is really up to the home owner to be educated and do something! I had the same problems in my house. I could not fix everything right a way, but in time I had a separate flue installed for the oil boiler. Then finally installed a SS flex liner in the clay lined cinder block chimney. Also drained and cut the bare copper line in the concrete and installed a coated copper line along the floor. (I personally do not like the overhead line but 3 other neighbors updated to that ok). Then I changed the hollow wood door from the basement to the garage to a Steel door. No code inspector needed to tell me to do all that either!
  24. DickRussell

    DickRussell Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2011
    Messages:
    114
    Loc:
    central NH
    I have to wonder about the quality of the cellulose insulation installed in that case. Do a search on "melting penny on cellulose insulation" and you find quite a number of short videos showing a blowtorch melting a penny sitting on top of a handful of cellulose insulation. The penny melts, while the surface of the cellulose just chars but does not really catch fire. Here's one: http://www.tasconindustries.com/Education Videos.html#melt.
  25. Don2222

    Don2222 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,154
    Loc:
    Salem NH
    That reminds me of shows I have seen where people walk on hot coals and have a torch and light their arms or legs on fire. There are tricks to that. In the case of the shreaded newspaper used in cellulose insulation, it is treated with borax to make it fire resistant. My only question is how long does the borax last and does it need to be treated again after so many years? I still have not found an answer.

Share This Page