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Experts Warn Harvey Flooded Fireplaces Could Pose Fire/Carbon Monoxide Risks

KATY MAGAZINE NEWS   

August 27, 2018   

Natalie Cook Clark and Katrina Katsarelis    

According to chimney expert, Todd Harkrider, fireplaces that suffered water damage during Harvey or any other flood event, could be at risk for fire or carbon monoxide release.

 

Harkrider wants to warn Katy Area residents that at least two of the larger fireplace manufacturers – Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT) and Innovative Hearth Products (IHP), are recommending homeowners replace their fireplaces if they have been partially or fully exposed to water. The companies have also deemed fireplace warranties invalid if exposed to water.

System Malfunctions and Carbon Monoxide Risks

The fireplace manufacturers have issued statements of concerns related to fire/carbon monoxide risks associated with rusted holes and potential control system malfunctions due to water damage.  One of the statements is below:

 “From a safety standpoint, it is our opinion that the fireplace be replaced if any of the fireplace has been exposed to or under water. Further, we recommend that the replacement be done by a qualified service person or agency. If you have any questions concerning this matter, feel free to contact our technical department at 800-655-2008.” – Technical Support, Innovative Hearth Products

According to fireplace experts, gas log burners/controls present the same issue with the control system being submerged and warn that attempted operation may result in fire or explosion, property damage, personal injury or even loss of life. “If fireplace damage was the result of flooding during Hurricane Harvey, we recommend checking the homeowners insurance policy for any benefits related to flooding,” states Heart & Home Technologies.

Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Response

“We haven’t seen anything (chimney related fires) yet but it would make sense,” explains Simon VanDyk, Lt. Public Information Officer Harris County Emergency Services. “One thing that most people don’t know is that in the unincorporated Katy there are no residential fire codes. Home inspectors focus on building codes.”  This can create a problem when people think that their home is inspected and approved but then it wasn’t inspected for fire threats.

Some inspectors agree. “The houses flooded from Harvey are now coming back online and I’m seeing, for the most part, that they’ve been rebuilt poorly,” says Jim Davis of About the House Inspection Services. “People need to focus on the overall safety of the home and not the look of the granite counter tops.”

Willowfork Fire Department started offering free fire inspections this year. Harris County Emergency Services District 48 was the first organization in Katy to offer home safety surveys in 2016 . Also residents need to take the time to self inspect their smoke alarms and keep in mind that these do expire. This year would also be the best year to install carbon monoxide detectors as an added precaution.

“Not too many people in the south use their chimney’s too much so with the unprecedented flooding we can expect to see issues that have never come up here before and it is a concern,” stressed Harkrider. This will be the first winter that we’ve experienced this potential threat. Most houses that had chimney water damage would not have been lived in and experiencing chimney use last winter. As the cold weather nears and users start up their fireplaces for the first time since the flood, potential damage and safety hazards could occur.

“I do believe that homeowners did and are missing some good info when they started the rebuild process. I think there were a lot of people that did DIY rebuild/renovations and did not document as well as they should have and are now having trouble selling their once flooded homes,” says George Huntoon, a local Katy realtor.

Bottom line people need to listen to common sense. Make sure that your house is properly inspected.

Here are some tips from the experts:

CHECK YOUR GAS STARTER

REPLACE MALFUNCTIONING FIREPLACES

INSTALL/CHECK SMOKE ALARMS TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE WORKING

INSTALL/CHECK CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS

GET A FIRE INSPECTION FROM YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT

GET YOUR CHIMNEY INSPECTED

Special thanks to Todd Harkrider of Harky’s Chimney & Home Services for bringing this story to our attention.

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