Manhattan firefighters responded to three structure fires and 27 service calls on Wednesday, and fire officials say the recent cold temperatures and the rare usage of heating appliances like fireplaces have led to conditions that spark fires.
The Manhattan Fire Department first responded to 2905 Hickory Court for a house fire at 8:50 a.m. Wednesday. Investigators determined an issue with the fireplace caused the fire to spread beneath the fireplace in the cavity between the floor and basement ceiling. Officials did not report any injuries and estimated a $17,500 loss to the home’s structure and contents. Property records list the owners as Anna and Aaron Bowyer of Manhattan.
Crews later responded to a report of smoke showing from a one-story, five-unit apartment building at 1200 Ratone St. just before 5 p.m. They put a hose line into the basement of Unit A and extinguished the fire within 10 minutes. Firefighters rescued one cat from the unit and two dogs from the neighboring apartment. Investigators found the fire started from combustibles being placed too closely to the water heater. Officials did not report any injuries and estimated the structure and its contents sustained a $40,000 loss. Property records list the owners as Todd and Thomas Thaemert of Manhattan.
That night, the fire department responded to a dryer-related fire at the Gramercy apartment complex, 2215 College Ave., at 9:03 p.m. Crews located the dryer on fire on the first floor of Building M. They helped evacuate occupants of the building and quickly extinguished the fire. One unit on the first floor had to be vacated for the night.
The estimated structure and content loss for the three-story, 12-unit building is $15,000. The owner is Vesper Manhattan LLC and the resident agent is Arthur Glassman of Topeka.
“I think the underlying theme is the extreme cold and it creates circumstances that are different than the normal that lead to fires,” Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Almes said in an email. “In talking with the fire investigators, for example, the residents on Hickory normally don’t use their fireplace, so during the cold they used it, and the fireplace had an issue that would have likely started a fire the next time it was used.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February as residents use different methods to warm themselves.
It recommends people:
- Keep flammable items at least three feet from any heat source,
- Keep portable generators outside, away from windows and as far away from the house as possible,
- Install and test carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month,
- Plug only one heat-producing appliance (like a space heater) directly into an electrical outlet at a time,
- Have a qualified professional clean and inspect chimneys and vents each year, and
- Store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep it outside at least 10 feet from the house or nearby buildings.