By City News Service
Fires that started in chimneys and caused extensive damage to three Orange County homes in one day underscore the danger of lighting fireplaces not used or cleaned in a long time and running them many hours on cold days or nights, an Orange County Fire Authority captain said today .
One fire was reported at 9:04 p.m. Saturday in a large two-story home on Sun Creek near Irvine's Woodbridge development, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said.
"They had fire in the attic and through the roof," when firefighters arrived, Concialdi said.
The 30 firefighters had the flames out at 9:54 p.m., he said.
"The fire started in the chimney and caused extensive damage in the attic and between the first and second floors," Concialdi said. That made the house uninhabitable and the Red Cross was contacted to help arrange shelter for the four-member family.
The two adults and two dogs were home at the time the fire started and all got out safely, he said.
About 20 minutes after firefighters responded to the Irvine chimney fire, units in unincorporated Tustin were dispatched to a second one in a three- story home in the 12800 block of Hewes Avenue, Concialdi said.
A multi-generational family of eight was displaced by that fire, which caused damage between the second floor where the fireplace was located and the third floor, he said.
"The father started the fire in the fireplace at 7:30 a.m. and had it going over 12 hours," Concialdi said. Six people were home when the fire started at 9:26 p.m. and nearby smoke alarms did not go off. The family was alerted by alarms that were farther away.
The day's first fire was reported at 11:30 a.m. in the 26900 block of Brighton, in Lake Forest, Concialdi said.
All three started as a result of chimneys, but there are different kinds of chimney fires, he said.
Bird nests and leaves can fill the spark arrester at the top of the chimney, fires can start in the firebox and spread into walls and residue from burned wood inside the chimney can catch fire when too much accumulates. At least two of Saturday's were in chimneys being used during the current cold weather after a long period of inactivity. In each case, the fire was left burning for several hours, Concialdi said.