Sad story - Wood Stove Fire - No Insurance

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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,009
Northern NH
At least it was just stuff and no one injured.

http://bangordailynews.com/2017/01/09/homestead/destructive-house-fire-points-out-struggles-in-getting-insurance-with-a-wood-stove/

It would be interesting to see if the stove was installed with required clearances and if they were burning dry wood. Given the comment that they cleaned the chimney frequently may have been a hint that they had green wood. Stacking wood near the stove is another hint that they may have been trying to dry the wood.

Its tough for them but if the article had included a bit more info on any installation deficiencies, others may learn from their experience. Depressingly when it gets cold in Maine, folks are getting burned out of their homes every couple of days, folks live pay check to check and if they have choice between staying warm or freezing they do what they have to do and cut corners. I have a suspicion that even if they could find an insurance company, their installation would most likely not have passed inspection.
 

DUMF

Feeling the Heat
Jan 13, 2016
297
Vermont
Interesting account, BUT....
most rural towns in North America not just NH, Maine, or VT have NO codes or any training for inspections of wood stoves or any code inspections. Fire departments, usually volunteer, do not have inspection authority or knowledge of wood stoves; some for chimneys, that's it.
Your assumptions of the fire causes are just that: assumptions. Whether or not they "cut corners" is speculation, nothing more.There are no burned out fires every couple of days in Maine or in your town.
Most installations of wood stoves in northern N.E. are DIY with no "inspections" as you well know.
It wood (sic) be helpful for your encouragement to follow a manufacturer's clearance and installation specifications and specs for flue safety.
 

VirginiaIron

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2013
1,047
Central Virginia
Yes, very sad. Our heartfelt prayers and concern go out to the family and friends that are helping them.

I guess some of the lessons for all of us can be:
1. Maintain safe clearances to combustibles for your woodstove and your chimney. This includes stacking you would too close to the woodstove.
2. Operate your heat source correctly to minimize or prevent creosote buildup and other potential hazards.
3. Only operate equipment that is safe to use. This includes the proper maintenance and cleaning of the chimney and stove.
4. Have a plan to react if a chimney fire, a stove malfunction, or any other undesirable situation occurs.
 
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St. Coemgen

Feeling the Heat
Feb 4, 2016
259
Hungary
www.stcoemgen.com
From the article:

"...recently installed a new stovepipe and took pains to clean the chimney every six weeks — a messy, time-consuming task that had seemed especially important since the family had endured a small chimney fire about six years ago.
"

Wait... What?

The chimney needed to be cleaned every 6 weeks???? And it was a messy time consuming task? And they already had a chimney fire?

Sounds suspicious to me. As in maybe burning unseasoned wood. Or other things one should not burn....

You can have all the stove and chimney inspections you want, but until someone inspects the actual fuel being burned, it may not matter much.

And that all makes wood burning look like it is a "problem". Terrible.
 

VirginiaIron

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2013
1,047
Central Virginia
From the article:

"...recently installed a new stovepipe and took pains to clean the chimney every six weeks — a messy, time-consuming task that had seemed especially important since the family had endured a small chimney fire about six years ago.
"

Wait... What?

The chimney needed to be cleaned every 6 weeks???? And it was a messy time consuming task? And they already had a chimney fire?

Sounds suspicious to me. As in maybe burning unseasoned wood. Or other things one should not burn....

You can have all the stove and chimney inspections you want, but until someone inspects the actual fuel being burned, it may not matter much.

And that all makes wood burning look like it is a "problem". Terrible.
It does look bad for the wood-burning community. I could see checking the chimney every several weeks on a new install to determine burning habits and cleaning frequency. Unfortunately, "Clean" is a subjective word. Unless the individual performing the task has the knowledge of the dangers of creosote and has had some instruction as to the cleaning methods and what a clean chimney looks like, it's a disaster waiting to happen. Then you have the misconception that anybody can install a chimney or wood stove, but can the device be installed correctly, safely according to the manufacturers installation instructions?
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,009
Northern NH
Interesting account, BUT....
most rural towns in North America not just NH, Maine, or VT have NO codes or any training for inspections of wood stoves or any code inspections. Fire departments, usually volunteer, do not have inspection authority or knowledge of wood stoves; some for chimneys, that's it.
Your assumptions of the fire causes are just that: assumptions. Whether or not they "cut corners" is speculation, nothing more.There are no burned out fires every couple of days in Maine or in your town.
Most installations of wood stoves in northern N.E. are DIY with no "inspections" as you well know.
It wood (sic) be helpful for your encouragement to follow a manufacturer's clearance and installation specifications and specs for flue safety.
I really am not sure where you are coming from with this post? I did not assume but I did speculate based on what info was stated in the article. I wasnt out to dump on these folks and thought my post was presented that way. It looks like you don't agree. Sadly your comment There are no burned out fires every couple of days in Maine or in your town is not valid, there have been several recent wood stove related fires in the region that seem to track with the onset of cold weather. I speculate that last years mild winter may have caught many folks off guard and they are scrambling for wood. Many of the reported fires are in low end housing, usually rural cottages and trailers, its actually rare to hear of woodstove fires in higher end homes with the exception of improper ash storage and disposal and thus this implies that low cost possibly improper installations may be the reason. The fire departments in my area (northern NH) be they volunteer or not generally do offer to inspect wood stove installations, it may not be that way in your region of VT but most fire departments would rather prevent a fire than put one out.
 

St. Coemgen

Feeling the Heat
Feb 4, 2016
259
Hungary
www.stcoemgen.com
The fire departments in my area (northern NH) be they volunteer or not generally do offer to inspect wood stove installations, it may not be that way in your region of VT but most fire departments would rather prevent a fire than put one out.
Yes. God Bless Firemen.

But firemen can only do so much.

The home owners seemed to have made many mistakes. For example, the article said "The stack of wood piled near the wood stove had ignited", which begs the question, why was a stack of wood so close to the stove to ignite?

I hate to seem to be a mean person about this family's personal loss (which is sad), but IMHO, this article concentrates too much on issues of "wood burning" in general while not pointing out some real issues and mistakes (actual or perceived) done by the home owners.
 
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jb6l6gc

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2015
820
Cayuga, Ontario, Canada
Forgive me if I'm wrong but I doubt their insurance would've covered this even if they had it as according to the article the cause was negligence. Insurance companies can always find a way not to pay if there is one.
 

electrathon

Minister of Fire
Sep 17, 2015
539
Gresham, OR
The insurance problem they had was that they told the insurance companies it was the sole heat source. You install an electric wall heater and that is your primary heat source. The wood stove is supplemental. Then you have no trouble getting insurance.
 
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VirginiaIron

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2013
1,047
Central Virginia
Yes. God Bless Firemen. ... hate to seem to be a mean person about this family's personal loss (which is sad), but IMHO, this article concentrates too much on issues of "wood burning" in general while not pointing out some real issues and mistakes (actual or perceived) done by the home owners.
IMHO- That might've seemed a little callus at the time and likened to kicking someone when their down. I'm sure that everyone, even the homeowner, knows that mistakes have been made. And, i'm sure everyone in the town, maybe even those and his family, wanted to give them a good scolding. It takes a strong individual, after an incident like this, to admit the mistakes that led to this disaster while advocating the correct installation and operating techniques or choices. That's what this forum is for. We should learn from those mistakes and promote safe installation an operating technique's and choices, so that this doesn't happen to anyone of us or any visitors that should happen to stumble upon this site.
 
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jb6l6gc

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2015
820
Cayuga, Ontario, Canada
The insurance problem they had was that they told the insurance companies it was the sole heat source. You install an electric wall heater and that is your primary heat source. The wood stove is supplemental. Then you have no trouble getting insurance.
Ya I got that but what I was getting at was the cause of the fire was them leaving combustibles too close to the stove. Whether it was primary or secondary heat source doesn't matter if they had insurance they would not cover you being negligent like that!
 
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electrathon

Minister of Fire
Sep 17, 2015
539
Gresham, OR
Ya I got that but what I was getting at was the cause of the fire was them leaving combustibles too close to the stove. Whether it was primary or secondary heat source doesn't matter if they had insurance they would not cover you being negligent like that!
Insurance does cover negligence. They may pay the bill and then tell you they are not going to renew your policy, but the fire damage gets covered.
 

jb6l6gc

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2015
820
Cayuga, Ontario, Canada
Insurance does cover negligence. They may pay the bill and then tell you they are not going to renew your policy, but the fire damage gets covered.
Depends on your company and policy. If they can they'll find a way not to pay. And even if they do and you can't renew you will have a very tough time finding anyone that'll insure you. Then in that situation I pray you don't have a mortgage or you're doubly screwed because no bank will hold your mortgage without insurance. Personally I don't think insurance should cover stupidity as other people who are not careless are the ones who pay the price!
 

jb6l6gc

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2015
820
Cayuga, Ontario, Canada
On a different note I'm very glad that nobody was injured in this occurance. These are very valuable lessons that should be taken to heart. Without this forum I have no idea what kind of wood burner I'd be, but I doubt I'd be as safety conscious as I am.
 

branchburner

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2008
2,755
southern NH
Yup. Regarding insurance. wood heat should never "officially" be your primary source of heat, even if in practice it is. If you are going to go to the expense of restoring a house, it makes sense to at least have a minimal non-wood backup even if it's rarely or never used. To get insurance you might need to stretch the truth a bit.

The insurance problem they had was that they told the insurance companies it was the sole heat source. You install an electric wall heater and that is your primary heat source. The wood stove is supplemental. Then you have no trouble getting insurance.
 

branchburner

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2008
2,755
southern NH
"The stack of wood piled near the wood stove had ignited"

When I hear this, I have to wonder: how close to the stove, what kind of wood, and how hot was the stove? It's hard for me to imagine a typical stack of hardwood splits a few feet from a stove at normal cruising temps suddenly bursting into flame.
 

snavematt

Member
Sep 7, 2016
146
Virginia
its sad, going to make my wife read this since she doesn't understand why Im so anal about clearances to the stove and stack
 
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VirginiaIron

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2013
1,047
Central Virginia
How close is too close? Obviously one shouldn't bring the wood closer than what is permitted in the installation instructions/data tag and take into account that if the wood pile falls it might actually be closer to the stove than what the minimum requirements permit.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
20,589
central pa
Interesting account, BUT....
most rural towns in North America not just NH, Maine, or VT have NO codes or any training for inspections of wood stoves or any code inspections. Fire departments, usually volunteer, do not have inspection authority or knowledge of wood stoves; some for chimneys, that's it.
Your assumptions of the fire causes are just that: assumptions. Whether or not they "cut corners" is speculation, nothing more.There are no burned out fires every couple of days in Maine or in your town.
Most installations of wood stoves in northern N.E. are DIY with no "inspections" as you well know.
It wood (sic) be helpful for your encouragement to follow a manufacturer's clearance and installation specifications and specs for flue safety.
not true at all every state has some some sort of code most are irc. and most have some sort of code enforcement but they can be stretched pretty thin
 

Simonkenton

Minister of Fire
Feb 27, 2014
1,536
Marshall NC
I live in the mountains in North Carolina, way out in the wilderness. I have had 2 wood stoves and there are no inspections or permits, by the county, or by the fire marshall. Also it is easy to get insurance, of course, I do have propane heat as well.

My neighbor screwed up his wood stove install ten years ago, and the second time he lit it up his house burned down. Big 1,900 sq. ft. log cabin. He did have insurance and he made out quite well, in fact, the rumor going around was that he burned it on purpose.
I knew he didn't but most people thought he did.
 

Sodbuster

Minister of Fire
Sep 22, 2012
1,242
Michigan
All my insurance company wanted was a picture of the install, and the required set-backs. Woodstoves should be safer than open fireplaces if installed correctly. I get my stove on low burn and leave to go to the store or to bed for that matter with no worries. With an open fireplace...no way.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
20,589
central pa
I live in the mountains in North Carolina, way out in the wilderness. I have had 2 wood stoves and there are no inspections or permits, by the county, or by the fire marshall. Also it is easy to get insurance, of course, I do have propane heat as well.
not requiring permits or inspections does not mean you dont have to follow the applicable code. If you install it yourself and dont follow code the liability falls on you. If a pro does it the liability falls on them. Inspection or not you still need to follow code.
 

woodhog73

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2016
780
Somewhere cold !
Forgive me if I'm wrong but I doubt their insurance would've covered this even if they had it as according to the article the cause was negligence. Insurance companies can always find a way not to pay if there is one.
I didn't read the article yet.

I worked as an insurance adjuster for many years right out of college. I no longer do that work just too many headaches and stress.

I'm also not an insurance expert it's been years since I worked as an adjuster. Best to read your homeowners policy and understand it. But based on my memory of different claims when I was working in that industry.......just wanted to share my thoughts on claims.

I can say we paid many claims due to accidents and negligence. Remember insurance does infact cover stupid mistakes and yes it covers human error and negligence. Case in point. If you go on vacation and forget to turn your faucet off and come back to a flood and water damage from an inside source of your home it's covered. You were negligent in forgetting to turn off the water but it's a fact that " honest" stupidity is not a valid reason for denial of coverage.

House fires from space heaters are VERY common. I've seen many claims paid from homeowners putting electric space heaters too close to their drapes , bedding, etc. Very stupid but it's still not grounds for a decline in coverage.

Same applies to leaving wood too close to the stove. Stupid ? Sure it is. But as long as you didn't do it on purpose it's covered.

If the insurance company has any reason to believe you might have wanted to cause a loss ( say for financial gain ) they will investigate much more in depth. If you leave wood on purpose close enough to catch fire, to seek financial gain, then that's a different situation and I'm sure they would decline the claim. But if you simply left the wood too close to the stove because you were busy, the phone was ringing, and the neighbor just rang the door bell, and you forgot the wood was there, and you burn your house down , you would be pretty pissed if your insurance company denied your claim.

1st party coverage is contractual and much harder for an insurance company to " find " reasons not to pay a claim. On 3rd party liability claims it is a different story. Like in car accidents he said / she said etc.
 
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DUMF

Feeling the Heat
Jan 13, 2016
297
Vermont
not true at all every state has some some sort of code most are irc. and most have some sort of code enforcement but they can be stretched pretty thin
Holler needs to do some serious fact checking. The fact is NO, not "...some sort of code..." for most wood stove installs. The only "codes" in most rural states are those that the Fire Marshal uses to determine cause of fire. And the install specs' "codes" are for stove manufacturers' legal depts and engineers for safety.
And NO, certainly no "code enforcement" if there are no codes. The nuns in school would say: " Common sense is not so common."
The truth is that most insurance companies don't bother to do an on site inspection either. Fact.
What's "irc" ? It's out of my league.
 
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