SHAWNEE, Kan. – Most house fires during the winter happen between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. because that’s when most people are using the fire place.
That is exactly what happened to a family whose home caught fire in Shawnee , Kan., off Johnson Drive near W 59th Street Monday night.
Behind icicle-laced debris that hangs from the rafters and family pictures buried in soot, there’s a family who wishes they had just cleaned the chimney.
“We were in the kitchen, watching TV, getting ready to watch the football game, and we heard a little bang, a little pop like something might have hit the side of the house, and she looked out the window and you could see that red glow,” said Jim Hayes, the homeowner.
He said a fire was brewing on the roof, and they didn’t even know until after it had burned parts of the roof. He believes it started in the chimney flue.
“It’s probably either creosote or a spark,” he said talking about what started it.
He said by the time he and his wife, Lynn, noticed the six-foot chase was on fire clear to the roof.
But it’s not just cleaning the chimney that’s important. With an HD camera, we saw the cracks in an average chimney.
The owner of Full Service Chimney, Robert Berry, said those cracks in tile and grout can cause hot air to leak which can ignite soot and any leftover residue.
“If there is a safety infraction, or a puncture or injury in between the chimney interior and the home, that’s where our combustibles overheat,” said Berry.
The damage at the Hayes’ Shawnee home is almost too much to bear.
“It was just an ordeal because it took so long to get it out.”
The City of Shawnee Fire Marshall, Corey Sands, said the rural area made the fire difficult to fight. The nearest fire hydrant was so far way that water pressure was very low.
“We had to close down Johnson Drive and search for other fire hydrants,” said Sands.
A silver lining is that Hayes, his wife Lynn and the three dogs all safely escaped.
He said he knew he was on “borrowed time” trying to find the dogs.
“I had to hunt them down,” he said. “Pete bailed out, as soon as that front door was open, he flew out of there and the other two went and hid.”
But they all did manage to get out. From now on, memories will be all they have until rebuilding can start.
“Clean it every chance you get.” He said. “If you can’t do it pay somebody else to do it.”
That homeowner said he usually cleans his chimney several times a year but hadn’t as much this year because it has just been so cold.
Berry recommends cleaning a chimney at least twice a year and said it will run you about $250 to $300.
Sands also said to have a fire escape plan for your family. He said if you don’t, your local fire department can help.