Dispose ashes safely: Wilton Fire Department reminds residents

The Wilton Fire Department's Engine 2 is pictured during a previous year. The fire department, which protects the town's residents, gives them tips in this guest column about how they can dispose of ashes safely after having a safe fire.

The Wilton Fire Department's Engine 2 is pictured during a previous year. The fire department, which protects the town’s residents, gives them tips in this guest column about how they can dispose of ashes safely after having a safe fire.

Bryan Haeffele / Hearst Connecticut Media

Several times during the year the Wilton Fire Department responds to fires in garages and backyard sheds. In many of these cases, the Fire Marshal first looks for, and finds, a container used to store ashes as the cause of the fire. In some cases, grocery bags are used; in others, plastic buckets or plastic trash cans. Sometimes all that is left is a little puddle of plastic under the area of heaviest damage.

These losses are preventable. Using the correct container is a fail-safe cure for ash disposal fires. Grocery bags will in many cases ignite just a few hours after they have been filled with ashes and stored in the garage. Cold ashes many times conceal hot embers within. These embers can smolder for days. When they come in contact with the bag, fires result.

Plastic trash containers are also not ideal for ash removal. Even if the plastic trash can is lidded, the hot embers may touch the side of the container, melt through and let in air. When the air mixes with the melted plastic, a very hot fire quickly results.

Use a metal container with a lid. Place your ashes in the container, cover it and place it outside and away from combustibles. Let it sit for a week at least before you dispose of it. In many cases, hot ashes dumped on a compost heap will start a fire with the first gust of wind. Give your ashes time to cool and dispose of them safely.