An early morning fire in Casper was caused by something most fireplace owners may not think about.

According to Casper Fire-EMS, they were called to a structure fire in the 100 block of North Nebraska Street about 3:00 Saturday morning. Crews found light smoke in the single family residence, and located an area around a fireplace enclosure that had been burning. They put it out, checked the attic to be sure the fire hadn't spread, and ventilated the smoke.

The damage was limited to charring of the paneling, trim, mantel and chase of the fireplace. The residents were home at the time, but nobody was injured and they were able to return home after the fire.

Fire investigators have determined the fire was caused by a process known as pyrolysis, which is "long term exposure of wood paneling on the exterior of the fireplace to heat. Over time, exposure to heat can cause thermal decomposition and charring of wood. The charred wood can then eventually ignite with continued exposure to heat", according to a release.

Pat McJunkin with Casper Fire-EMS said this cause is fairly rare though they do see it from time to time, and it's most commonly associated with wood burning fire places that have been in place for many years.

"They are also often relied on regularly for heating and heat supplementing by homeowners as opposed to occasional use, he said.  "It underscores the message that homeowners should regularly clean and inspect fireplace assemblies, preferably by a professional. New installations should also be done with strict adherence to manufacturers direction and code. Ideally, they should be done by a professional who understands proper installation and safety."

Casper Fire-EMS also wants to remind people of the importance of having smoke alarms in their homes, as they are crucial warning devices to alert sleeping people to the presence of fire.

Casper Fire-EMS can provide and install these devices to those in need. You can contact us at 235-8222 for assistance.

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