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Fire officials warn of fireplace safety after home damaged by blaze

After a fireplace fire spread to a wall Monday, causing $30,000 in damage to a northwest Las Vegas home, fire officials are warning the public about fireplace safety.

There are two types of fireplaces — those that can burn solid fuels like wood or manufactured logs, and those that only use natural gas. Both types of fireplaces and chimneys are made differently, according to the Las Vegas Fire Department.

The Monday fire spread to a wall behind the home’s fireplace, which was not manufactured to burn wood.

“Many fireplaces in the valley cannot burn wood,” Tim Szymanski, Las Vegas Fire Department spokesman, said.

Solid fuel fireplaces are made to withstand high heat produced by wood or manufactured logs. But there’s also maintenance that must be done. Its chimneys must be inspected and cleaned of flammable film build-up that forms from smoke inside.

If that film catches fire, it can cause the chimney to warp and crack causing flames to escape and move to the interior wall of the house. The fire can then burn from the ground floor to an attic without evidence until the roof catches fire, having already caused significant damage.

To determine what type of fireplace you may have, the fire department advised that you check for the front of your fireplace.

There, you should find a small metal plate with information about the make and model of the fireplace. Fireplaces that can use logs will have “SOLID” stamped on it for solid fuels. Others will say “GAS” or “NATURAL GAS,” which means they can only use natural gas.

“Regardless of if you have a SOLID or GAS fireplace, the damper should always be OPEN when the fireplace is in use,” according to a fire department news release.

The damper is a small trap door inside the fireplace at the top. When open, it allows smoke and poisonous carbon monoxide gas to escape up the chimney.

“These kinds of fires don’t happen too often, but one is too many,” said Szymanski.

Contact Mya Constantino at mconstantino@reviewjournal.com. Follow @searchingformya on Twitter.

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