Fire officials give safety tips ahead of winter
SWANTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As the colder temperatures start to come through you might be thinking about starting up your wood stove, but before you do there are a few things you need to do.
Todd Noel, a Swanton homeowner, learned that the hard way when he lost his home in a fire last year.
“Thankfully, no one died out of it, but it’s just a pain in the butt with the insurance companies,” Noel explained. “It’s a pain in the butt trying to replace everything. It’s a pain in the butt just trying to get everything back to normal.”
The fire in his house started in the chimney.
“We lost all of our stuff,” Noel said. “I mean literally 99% of our things, it’s gone.”
Williston Fire Capt. Prescott Nadeau said it’s important to clean, maintain and get your chimney inspected before you use your fireplace or stove for the first time this season.
“A cleaning, a professional will come in and use chimney brushes and really make sure that your flue and chimney are cleaned out properly,” Nadeau explained.
Noel skipped the professional, cleaning the chimney himself. Afterward, he still had some creosote buildup in an elbow of the pipe that connects the fireplace to the chimney.
“Change your elbows, don’t play games with it,” Noel said. “Just change it out, it’s not worth it. For a $12 part, it’s not worth it.”
Noel said he also learned another important lesson; make sure your insurance will fully cover your home and everything in it.
“I know when we went to do our insurance policy years ago it was pretty much a bunch of numbers thrown at us,” Noel said. “I was like, OK. I didn’t know.”
He said they were under-insured at the time of the fire and couldn’t cover all they lost. Now they’re just trying to rebuild their home and their lives.
“We’re going to strictly oil,” Noel said of his new home. “I’m not doing wood heat at all. Not anymore.”
Nadeau said wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, as well as gas-powered heating appliances, are all safe.
“If they are properly maintained,” Nadeau explained. “If you don’t know the answer to that, the best thing to do is be safe, not sorry.”
A lesson the Noel family wants to pass on.
“If we can save at least one house from being burned down by someone watching this on the news, that’d be a positive thing,” he said.
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