Rist Canyon VFD: Wind-spread fireplace ashes cause small wildland fire

From Bob Gann, Rist Canyon VFD fire chief:

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RCVFD responded Nov. 25 to a small wildland fire in the Crystal Mt. Area. RCVFD responded with 3 engines and 9 fire fighters and Larimer County with a crew of 7. The fire was contained last night but, due to the wind, not completely out and it was unsafe to work through the night with the danger of falling trees. RCVFD staffed the fire overnight with a crew of 2 to keep watch. This morning RCVFD sent 2 engines and crew of 5 for final mopup. Larimer County had a crew in route but we were able to cancel them as the RC Commander on scene determined the work could completed with resources on scene. As of this morning (Nov. 26) the fire was down to 4 small hot spots less than one foot in diameter which will be extinguished. The fire line has been improved and a final check will be made to make sure no embers have escaped. RCVFD will conduct a 24 hr check on the fire tomorrow. Total size was less than 1/2 acre.

This fire was caused by fireplace ashes that had been buried – but that the wind uncovered. The fire was wind driven but spread in the duff was slow. Most embers did not take hold so we were able to deal with it quickly.

This is a great reminder – fireplace ashes can remain hot for a week. Every year one of us gets caught by that. Dispose of ashes in a metal can that can contain the heat safely for the required time, or douse them with water and stir. Remember, ashes tend to be hydrophobic (water-hating) – water does not mix well with them. In fire service we add a surfactant (Class A foam) to the water to break that surface tension and make the water ‘work’ better. You can do the same thing with a few drops of environmentally safe, biodegradable soap. It will make your water much more effective. Remember, use only a small amount and make sure it is environmentally safe and biodegradable.

Bob Gann
RCVFD Fire Chief

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