Deadly fire a reminder about fireplace safety

Posted at 6:12 PM, Oct 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-24 19:12:03-04
   We know now what caused a house to catch fire near Nehawka last week killing Mike and Michelle Speer and their four daughters.
     The state fire marshal determined that embers and ash from a fireplace in the living room started the inferno. Flames hit the carpet and furniture of the Speer family home on McKelvie street in Cass County. The roof and exterior walls collapsed making it unsafe for firefighters to make their way into the home. Mike and Michelle Speer and their four daughters, Elli, Adilynn, Emma and Anniston, all died from smoke inhalation.  Services for the victims begin tonight with a visitation. It's 6 until 8 p.m. at Calvary Christian Church in Bellevue. A funeral will be held for the Speers at the same church. 
     With temperatures dropping, more and more people will be sparking up their fireplaces for the first time this season. The tragedy involving the Speers had us searching for important reminders to keep you and your family safe.  Reporter Megan Hahn has the story.
     Fire safety is on the minds of many following last week's deadly house fire. We spoke with experts who say there are many causes of fire place and chimney fires, from flammable creosote build up to burning freshly cut wood.
     Randall Redding's been in the chimney cleaning business for 27 years. He says you should always think twice before lighting up your fire place for the first time this season. "If there's birds or squirrels that have made nests through the year, or if a pipe or pipeliner has cracked...those are some important issues. You never know what could've happened in a 12 month period." Redding stresses the importance of yearly chimney inspections and using a hearth grate to keep embers from jumping onto carpet and furniture. Bellevue Fire Department Captain Brian Staskiewicz says byproduct can build up and if ignited is especially difficult to put out. "If the chimney gets overheated that fire that could be caused in the chimney could spread into the crawl space into the house or the attic of the house, which then, for the fighters, it's doubly hard to find because they have to go in and look for it and extinguish it from there."  Redding says inspections typically cost around a hundred dollars with a full cleaning costing about two hundred. A small price to pay for peace of mind.  "Fireplace or wood stove can be the focal point of your home. It can be the most enjoyable family gathering - most memories are created around that but unfortunately it can also cause tragedy."
     It's also important to remember to properly dispose of ashes in a fireproof container like a metal bucket with a lid.