State fire investigators extra busy this season

7:37 PM, Feb 4, 2013   |    comments
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Former Penley Mill building burns. Courtesy: Chuck Blaquiere

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's been a busy winter season for fire investigators throughout the state.

State fire marshal, Joe Thomas, says they usually see an increase in chimney or woodstove fires as the temperatures drop, but two weeks ago, his investigators dealt with 23 fires in just 7 days; that's the busiest he remembers it in his 40 year career.

Fires like this one Minot that were sparked in the chimney, or like one in Bangor, again, a chimney fire.

Thomas says so many of these fires are sparked by a lack of common sense - someone leaving ashes too close to something flammable, or a chimney that hasn't been inspected in years. And with most of this season's fatal fires, working smoke detectors haven't been present.

"I'm almost to the point of screaming, 'pay attention to us,'" he says.  "You know, we try to make this information as readily available to people as we can, we do Public Service Announcements, we have campaigns that are out there, I mean, you hear about smoke detectors and maintenance of them all year long, I mean change the clock, change your batteries, those are the things they could do. People need to stop and think fire is dangerous, it can happen in my home."

A few final pieces of advice from the state fire marshal: If you are taking ashes outside, do not leave them on your front porch, or anywhere near the home, even if you think they're cool enough. Also, as you're shoveling, make sure to clear ALL entrances of your home, so you have an emergency exit in case of a fire.


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