Fireplace Fire Damages GMU-Area Home

Investigators are blaming a broken seam in the chimney of a zero-clearance fireplace for a fire that caused an estimated $100,000 damage to a home near George Mason University last Saturday.

Units of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department arriving at 4505 Shirley Gate Road at approximately 1:30 AM found heavy smoke and fire coming from the garage, roof of the garage and rear rapidly spreading into the attic along the roof line of the two-story single-family home.

Concentrating their efforts on the lower level of the home, the exterior and garage area, firefighters brought the fire under control in about 20 minutes. During their battle, crews were challenged by a partial collapse of the garage roof housing two vehicles; stretching hose lines approximately 100 yards, and negotiating and positioning apparatus the along the narrow driveway leading to the home.

While the majority of living space was protected, much of the home received some smoke and water damage. The family of four escaped unharmed. Three adults and a youth have been displaced. There were no injuries.

Fireplace safety tips 

Department experts offer the following fireplace safety tips:

  • Ensure that your chimney is cleaned and inspected by a licensed professional once a year.
  • A spark arrestor across the top of a chimney will prevent sparks from igniting your roof.
  • Use the proper fuel (seasoned hardwood, pellets, and gas/propane) for your type of system. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Fireplaces should have a sturdy screen across the front to prevent embers from flying or logs from rolling out.
  • When clearing ashes from the fireplace, be sure to put them into a metal container with a lid — never into a cardboard box or paper bag.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.  Many “non-masonry” fireplace/chimney units have limitations on the amount of heat they can safely withstand.