Cracks in chimney fuel fire that destroys Shawnee home - KCTV5

Cracks in chimney fuel fire that destroys Shawnee home

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Damaged Shawnee home from fireplace fire Damaged Shawnee home from fireplace fire
SHAWNEE, KS (KCTV) -

A family's home lies in charred ruins because of chimney issues, and it's a cautionary tale for other homeowners.

Altogether, five families saw their homes go up in flames over the weekend due to fireplace fires.

Experts say you should have an expert come out and inspect your chimney for cracks like seen in a Shawnee home. An inspection and cleaning at least annually is de rigueur.

"When you burn wood, all that ash inside the fireplace needs to be cleaned out because those can catch fire also," said Corey Sands, fire marshal for the Shawnee Fire Department.

The Huffstutter family saw $130,000 in damage to their home. Their artificial Christmas tree is covered in ash and the children's Christmas presents literally went up in smoke.

"It's sad," Jason Huffstutter said. "I don't really know what to say. I'm still in shock. We lost everything."

It was a cold night and he decided to light the fireplace about 1 a.m. Sunday. He and his wife have five children ranging in age from 2 to 13. Three of the children were spending Saturday night with friends.

"I threw on a couple of logs for the fire, started the gas starter," He recalled. "I was standing there watching the fire, watching the [wood] logs catch and within seconds there was smoke really coming strong from the cabinets. It was barreling into the room from the top of the cabinet."

The family was working on renovations including paint and hadn't replaced their smoke detectors. He ran to get a garden hose, but it was frozen. His adrenaline-fueled idea of tossing a glass of water on the flames was quickly doused as the oxygen-fueled blaze spread.

"It happened that fast. It happened within 30 seconds," he said.

Fire inspectors believe cracks in the chimney's mortar pushed the flames to the inner walls, and they quickly spread.

Huffstutter admits he didn't think an inspection was necessary.

"We use the fireplace all the time so I didn't think that there was any need to have it inspected," he said.

He has definitely changed his feeling.

"I am so leery of fireplaces now after this," he said. "Luckily I was keeping an eye on it. I could have lit that fire and went to bed and who knows what could have happened."

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is supplying clothes and shelter to the family as well as toys to the children.

Donations can be made to help out the family at area Wells Fargo banks to the Huffstutter family fund.

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