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Chimney, Attic Damaged in Fire at Novato Home

Damage set at $15,000; no one hurt.

Wood framing in a chimney caught fire Saturday at a west-side Novato home, causing about $15,000 in damage, the Novato Fire District said.

No one was injured and all belongings were saved at 30 Theresa Court, just of Center Road near Eucalyptus Avenue, Division Chief Mark Heine said Sunday.

An emergency call was placed at 9:12 p.m., prompting a response of four engines, a ladder truck, a medical unit and two battalion chiefs, Heine said. The fire spread up the chimney's wood framing and into the attic. Firefighters attacked the blaze and had it under control at 9:26 p.m., Heine said.

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Rico November 11, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Wood framing in a chimney ? Take a look at that photo, it looks like they tried to seal off the old chimney with wood also.There is what appears to be a piece of sheet metal behind the stove, but there is wood about 4 inches away from the stove. And look at the area below the wood stove, there is no hearth, it it sitting on a wood floor ! I have the same setup, a wood stove set outside an old chimney, with a double wall flue pipe running inside the old chimney. What I had to do to make up to code is, repair the fire bricks in the old chimney first, then extend the hearth out so that there is 18 inches of hearth on all sides of the wood floor. And then, I sealed off the opening of the old chimney with concrete wonder board (except for the opening for the flue pipe). This kind of setup is very efficient- having the wood stove out and old fireplace sealed off. I did the work myself after consulting with a chimney company. I had to do this because it is my only source of heat, there is no LNG or LPG gas at my house. The last few days I have had the wood stove going full time. It looks like these people on Theresa Ct. did a cobb job on their wood stove installation, no doubt that they will learn from their mistakes, or I certainly hope so, for theirs and their neighbors sake.
Tina McMillan November 12, 2012 at 12:35 AM
When you put in a fireplace insert you are suppose to have the city inspect the work. Ours is an Avalon. It sits on top of a brick hearth and sticks out far enough to have a heat generated fan and a pot of water on top to move air and keep it from getting too dry. The hearth was extended out by one extra row of bricks to meet code and we get it cleaned every year. These Avalons are energy efficient and burn cleaner with a two flue system. Keeping them clean as well as how they are installed is really important to operating them safely. Ours can keep the whole downstairs warm as long as we don't have spare the air days. It really saves on heating costs. http://avalonfirestyles.com/
Craig Belfor November 12, 2012 at 02:30 PM
That's it. I'm making Tina.com my new search page over Google. She really does know everything.
Bob Ratto November 12, 2012 at 02:47 PM
If you have a phony Spare the Air day, I am pretty sure you are allowed to use fires for cooking, so it may be useful to have marshmallows/hot dogs/whatever on a stick, so when the air police come knocking, you have a viable reason/plausible deniability over your choice of cooking methods.
Chester B. Henry November 12, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Spot on Greg.
Craig Belfor November 12, 2012 at 03:01 PM
The air cops are easy to spot. They drive those smokey diesels.
Rico November 12, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Tina, If you do the job right, there is no need to call the city and pay them to inspect it, did you call Novato and have them inspect yours ? And about the hearth, I had an existing brick hearth for the old fireplace, but that was set before the wood floor was installed, so the top of the bricks is only about 3/4 of an inch above the floor. In order to install my wood stove completely outside of the fireplace I was required to extend the hearth about 2 feet further out from the old existing one. So I bought some 12"x12" tiles, glued them to the floor, then used morter to set them, used half inch quarter round molding for the border and painted everything including the concrete board and mantle. It looks great and I did all the work myself for under $100. If I had a fireplace company do it, it would probably have costed me over $1000. If you study the photo in this article, it looks like there was never any hearth at all. And using wood to frame the inside of a chimney is illegal, dangerous and dumb. If a chimney is in need of repair, the repair should be done with fire brick, not wood !
Rico November 12, 2012 at 06:32 PM
And, the inside of their cars are filled with smoke from puffing potsticks inside while driving around burning fuel and wasting the taxpayers money. Their BAAQMD motto, "we just do what we wanna, ride around and puff mariwanna". It is a Kush job, but boring, and the pay is great.
Tina McMillan November 12, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Ricardo First off, I think your comments were helpful about the apparent safety issues. I don't build so I can't really say what I think is wrong or right except that it is worth it to get a permit on a fireplace insert and yes I did get one for mine. That was in the days of the one stop shop and I was able to work with the fireplace contractor by being the person to sit and wait. I may not agree with all the local laws but there is no way that I am going to do any work on my house without permits. It isn't worth the headache at the other end if you decide to sell or you get caught cheating or worse if through ignorance you do the job wrong and then something like a fire results. I don't know if insurance would cover the loss if it was due to an illegal act. Could just be my over thinking but insurance companies sure hate paying customers for losses. In the case of my fireplace insert while I had researched the model trying to find one that didn't need a catalytic converter to work (I figure when the electricity goes out I want a good old fashioned wood stove in my home) I had no idea how important the size of the hearth was. We have a wood floor in our house too, the woodstove sits up by four bricks up off the floor and and is almost six bricks deep. My bigger frustration is the many Spare the Air days that keep us from using the stove. It burns clean as long as you get a good start and with the double flue you can also slow down or speed up the burn rate.
Rico November 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Tina, Is your wood stove an insert or is it like mine and actually free standing out of the fireplace ? I am a contractor and I do pull permits for substantial jobs, but many jobs do not require a permit. I have friends that just remodeled their kitchen in Novato. They have a special deal that you can take photos of the job and pay for a permit later. I know that doing big jobs without a permit can be a problem when and if you try to sell your house, and if the county assessor finds about it, they will be mad and no doubt will want to raise your taxes. I was working on a job a few years ago, and the county assessor showed up with a camera and started asking me questions. I told her that the job would not be completed for at least 9 months, so I effectively ran her off. I don't know much about those catalytic converters, I didn't know that they needed electricity. That defeats the purpose of using a wood stove if one can not use it when the power is off. According to my local fireplace company, they are not mandatory at all, and they are a big hassle to maintain and clean. It sounds like you did the right thing in your case, especially if you live in an area that has houses very close by, and nosey neighbors who spy on each other and call the building department on their neighbors for doing jobs without permits. What my local building inspector told me is, if it can't be seen from the street, just do it right so you won't have any problems.
Tina McMillan November 13, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Mine is an insert so it sticks out just enough to put a heat operated fan and a kettle on top. We have had it for about ten years. It still runs great. It just needs a cleaning and a safety check each year. Have you ever used "fatwood" to start fires in an insert? I was told that it was safe but couldn't find any information about resin buildup in the flue. Just curious what other folks are using.
Rico November 13, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Tina, I have never heard of "fatwood", what is it made of ? Pressed mill ends and sawdust that contains glue, formaldehyde and other chemicals used in manufacturing glue lam beams and OSB. No thanks, I only burn real wood in my stove, mainly oak. I think that burning anything other than wood in a stove causes toxic air pollution along with all the other causes of air pollution that the BAAQMD will not stop, like vehicle exhaust, etc., etc, etc. By the way, I bought a brush and clean my own flue and spark arrestor at least twice per year because I burn wood constantly as I am exempt from any silly BAAQMD rules. Another tip, never burn garbage, plastics or green wood. I like the idea of a heat powered fan and will look into that idea, thanks.
Tina McMillan November 13, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Here is a link to Ecofan. It is such a great idea. When you put two up on either end it helps to push the warm air out into the room. I think we got our off of Amazon. http://www.garrettwade.com/product.asp?pn=25T05.01&SID=W6071004&gclid=CN-D95LXzLMCFYN_QgodUgMALQ I found "Fat Wood" at Pini Hardware. It is a fire starter. It usually takes one or two slivers to get a fire going but I was worried about build up of resin in my flue. I will find out this year if that is the case when I get it cleaned. I was just curious if anyone else has used it. We use to have lots of kindling from pine wood scraps but the paper that it takes to get a fire going puts out a lot of nasty particulates. I agree about only burning seasoned wood, particularly dry wood and using different kinds to start a fire and then to keep it burning. We shop at Nero. They have a great product and with the insert we can go through much of the winter on 3/4 of a cord. I use to buy from a fellow up north until I got a bad batch of moldy wood. It was awful. Nero's mix burns well and it supports local business and so it is worth it to me to buy from them. http://nerosfirewood.com/
Rico November 14, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Nero's sells what they call "designer firewood". It is very expensive compared to other sources that I have found. I have to shop around because last year, I burnt 3 and a half cords of pure oak. I have calculated the costs for wood delivered compared to using electric or gas, it is still far less expensive, and I don't have gas. I don't want any gas on my property or in my house for safety reasons. This year, I don't plan on burning much more than 2 cords of oak, but I do gather up the abundance of redwood branches that fall in my yard every year for kindling. Redwood is great for kindling , but terrible for using it for the main firewood. Since Nero's wood lot is located in Novato, you might get a better price than I do in southern Marin (M.V.)
Rico November 14, 2012 at 03:28 AM
I checked out that link about the fans, they look far too big to fit under a wood stove unless it is elevated ? inches above grade. The technical description did not mention the height for these fans, to me that is a red flag. I would never consider buying a product that did not have the dimensions posted in their advertising. Fans do not use much electricity at all, so, if I was very serious, I would buy an electric fan, cut a hole through the floor and run an 8 inch ducting system for use as a central heating system throughout my house. But that is not necessary in my case.

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