The use of such alternative heating sources brings an increased risk in fire danger, as witnessed by firefighters who responded to fires in Spring Lake and Fruitport townships about an hour apart Monday morning.
Firefighters from three departments responded to a fire at about 7 a.m. in the northern part of Spring Lake Township. Police blocked Hemlock Street, between West Spring Lake Road and 168th Avenue, for a couple hours as firefighters contained an attic fire in a home at 16500 Hemlock.
Several departments also responded to a house fire on South Hilton Park Road in Fruitport Township at about 8 a.m.
Brian Cena called 911 shortly after 7 a.m. to report that his Spring Lake Township house was filling with smoke.
"The whole house filled with smoke," he said. "I got the wife and kids out."
Cena said he checked the house and garage, but didn't see any flames. Then he saw smoke coming from the wall near the living room fireplace, so he called 911.
The homeowner said he used the fireplace Sunday for the first time this winter.
Spring Lake Township Deputy Fire Chief John Stalzer said fire escaped the fireplace and got into a dead space behind the structure. It then extended into the attic.
Firefighters had it out in a little less than an hour.
"There was limited fire damage and some smoke damage," Stalzer said.
Fire Chief Brian Sipe said firefighters had to pull away the wall and some of the ceiling around the fireplace to get to the actual fire. They found bracing and trusses burning and insulation smoldering.
Possible causes are a crack in the chimney liner or the type of construction around the fireplace, Sipe said. It is still under investigation.
Cena said the house is insured.
Firefighters from Ferrysburg and Crockery Township assisted at the scene.
Crockery Township firefighters left shortly after 8 a.m. to assist at the house fire in the 6200 block of South Hilton Park Road.
The resident there said she was sleeping when the smoke alarm went off. She and her dog escaped safely as flames spread from a wood-burning stove into the house, WZZM-TV reported.
Calls to Fruitport Fire Chief Ken Doctor were not immediately returned.
Spring Lake Township Fire Chief Brian Sipe said maintenance is imperative when it comes to preventing fires in a home with a fireplace or woodstove.
“Have your chimney cleaned every year,” he said. “Have a professional clean it and clean it well.”
Homeowners should also be conscious of the type of wood they are burning, because some cause more creosote buildup than others. Creosote tends to trap carbon from smoke and is very flammable.
Two things happened that kept the Hemlock Street fire from becoming disastrous, Sipe said. One was that the homeowners were up early and smelled smoke, and then the smoke alarms activated. Early access to the fire prevented it from doing major damage to the home, he said.
Sipe said residents need to make sure they have fresh batteries in their home's smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Also, keep combustibles a minimum of 3 feet away from a woodstove or space heater.
Anyone disposing of ashes should put them in a metal container with a lid, and store it at least 10 feet away from any structures.
“We’ve had people put ashes in cardboard boxes, plastic totes,” Sipe said.