Interview with E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc. president Lt. Michael McLeieer Monday September 29, 2020 at 8:50 a.m. on WKZO AM 590 or FM 106.9.

As the temperatures cool down outside, you may want to start a fire in the fireplace or turn on the furnace to stay warm, but is your chimney ready to handle the heat?

National Chimney Safety Week 2020 is September 27 – October 3 and is designed to educate homeowners on the inherent dangers of fireplaces and provide them with tips to reduce their risk of suffering a chimney fire or carbon monoxide-related health emergency.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC), an average of 17,600 chimney fires occurred annually in the United States between 2015 and 2017, and although this represents a significant drop from previous years, the Chimney Safety Institute of America believes there’s still much room for improvement. CSIA’s vision is that every family enjoys a safe, warm home.

The Facts About Chimney Fires


Your chimney–and the flue that lines it–adds architectural interest to your home, but its’ real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace, wood stove or furnace safely out of your home.    As you relax in front of your fireplace or bask in the warmth of your wood stove, the last thing you are likely to be thinking about is the condition of your chimney.  However, if you don’t give some thought to it before you light those winter fires, your enjoyment may be very short-lived.


Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people. ​   Indications of a chimney fire have been described as creating: loud cracking and popping noise a lot of dense smoke, and an intense, hot smell ​Chimney fires can burn explosively – noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or people passing by.  Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney.  Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane.  However, those are only the chimney fires you know about.

Chimney fires are preventable.  When burning wood, only use dry, seasoned wood.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends chimneys be inspected annually and cleaned as-needed.  Having your chimney inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep before lighting your first fire of the season, is the number one way to prevent potential damage to your home or even the loss of life that may result from a damaged or blocked chimney.

E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety reminds you with more than 1,800 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps located across the United States, it has never been easier to find one near you.  To locate your nearest CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, visit and enter your zip code into the locator search tool.


Now that the end of summer is near, here are some tips for safely storing your charcoal.

As summertime is coming to an end, what do you do with your leftover charcoal?  If charcoal is not properly stored, it may not light the next time you want to use it.

What is charcoal?

Charcoal is a source of fuel used to cook or grill food.  The most common type many use for outdoor cooking is the charcoal briquette.  Wood-by-products such as sawdust are compressed to form charcoal.  The charcoal contains additives used during the making process.  These additives help to ignite the charcoal and make it burn easier.

Does charcoal go bad?

It is not easy for charcoal to go bad unless you fail to store it properly.  For example, charcoal briquettes and water do not go together.  Leaving charcoal out in the rain or even outside and exposed to fog, high humidity or dew means the briquettes will not light efficiently if at all.  To avoid this, always store your briquettes in a cool, dry place.  Just grab that bag and bring it back into the garage with you, or roll the top of the bag shut and place it in an empty metal trash can with the lid on it to protect the contents from the elements.  A metal container with a lid is fireproof and a safer choice than a plastic container which is more porous and can tend to attract moisture much more easily.

Seal the bag

According to Kingsford®, a leading brand of charcoal briquettes, some are treated with lighter fluid to help them get started faster.  However, if the bag is torn or left open for long periods of time, the solvent will evaporate.  This prevents the briquettes from lighting properly.  So to keep them fresh and easy to light the next time you are ready to ready to use them, roll the top of the bag to seal it tightly and store it in a well-ventilated, cool and dry place away from heat sources and open flames.

Shelf life

The shelf life of charcoal is usually listed on the bag (an average or 1 – 2 years if stored properly, the bag is unopened, free of tears or tightly sealed).  Store the charcoal container out of direct sunlight and in an area that is cool but not wet.  If you store charcoal in the basement, make sure you use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.

Disposal of hot coals

Never place hot coals in a plastic garbage can or a can full of trash inside your garage or next to your home.  Charcoal burns at approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit and the ashes can retain their heat for up to 48 hours.  Always let your ashes cool for a full 48 hours before handling them.  When the ashes have completely cooled, go ahead and wrap them in aluminum foil and throw them in the garbage can.  Wrapping the ashes in aluminum foil is necessary because it prevents the ashes from potentially melting your plastic trash can or mixing with other trash that might cause a fire or explosion.

Safety first

Unattended cooking is the number one cause of home fires, so equip your kitchen and grilling area with a fire extinguisher or the EZ Fire Spray from First Alert® to be prepared!  The EZ Fire Spray’s small size is ideal to use and is smaller than a traditional fire extinguisher.  It discharges four times longer than a regular fire extinguisher, making it effective against common household fires including grilling and grease fires.  The portable size and aerosol spray nozzle makes using it fast and simple for use on incipient-stage fires at home, on boats, RVs, near the grill, and while traveling.  The biodegradable formula is easy to clean up by simply wiping with a damp cloth so you don’t have to worry about making a mess.  In case of a fire, always make sure occupants evacuate the building and have someone call 911 before using a fire extinguisher.  For more tips on how and when to use a fire extinguisher, visit the United States Fire Administration’s website.


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September 2, 2020

E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc.(SM), an award-winning non-profit fire safety organization headquartered in Kalamazoo has formed an exclusive partnership with First Alert® with the goal of eliminating home fire deaths across Michigan through the new campaign called “Keeping Michigan S.A.F.E.” (Smoke Alarms For Everyone).


First Alert is the most trusted and recognized fire safety brand in America.  For more than 60 years, First Alert has designed and developed innovative safety solutions including a comprehensive line of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders to protect what matters most.


“For over a decade, Michigan continues to lead the country in civilian fire deaths.  This exclusive partnership will allow us to provide the resources and education that firefighters throughout Michigan are able to utilize in their local communities and reverse this deadly trend,” according to firefighter Michael McLeieer, president and founder of E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc. and immediate past president of the Michigan State Firemen’s Association.

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We are proud to partner with these leading fire service organization as we work together “Keeping Michigan” – The Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs, Michigan Mutual Aid Box Alarm System and Michigan State Firemen’s Association.

We are excited to receive additional support for this project from the following partners:

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