House Fire Caught Early on Alcima Avenue
A 911 call went out at 10:16 p.m. Sunday, April 21, to Pacific Palisades Fire Stations 69 and 23, reporting a fire on Alcima Avenue in the Martin Short residence.
According to LAFD spokesperson Margaret Stewart, “Firefighters arrived at a large, two-story, single-family dwelling with nothing showing.”
According to firefighters there was a small wisp of smoke coming through the roof. The residents, who were home, had reported that it smelled as if something was burning.
Using a portable thermal imaging camera, firefighters located a fire in the attic. They cut a hole in the roof and spotted the fire near a fireplace chimney used for a zero-clearance fireplace.
According to Stewart, the fire was put out in about 40 minutes by 26 firefighters. There were no injuries and the cause was undetermined.
By quickly finding the fire, firefighters prevented it from traveling through the entire attic and engulfing the house.
Firefighters said that they have seen an increase in house fires for two reasons: illegal grill houses (drug houses) and zero-clearance fireplaces.
When people replaced brick-and mortar fireplaces for earthquake safety, they often replaced them with zero-clearance fireplaces.
These fireplaces are manufactured fireboxes that are fire-rated, so that no (zero) clearance is required between the firebox and construction materials like wood framing and sheetrock.
If the fireplaces are not installed correctly, there is a chance the metal face of the unit will become hot while the fireplace is in operation and paper-faced drywall can combust. According to My Firefighter Nation, in these fireplaces, creosote can also build up, causing a fire, and the fireplace should be cleaned yearly, if used.
What if Palisades residents want to check if their fireplace has been installed correctly? The only way to find out is to go inside the wall. Fighters also suggest that if you have a zero-clearance fireplace and are worried about it, just don’t leave the house for a while after you use the fireplace.
Circling the News stopped by the house on Monday and spoke to Sheldon Chaplin of HP Associates. Chaplin is a fire and water damage restoration expert. He said that he would “guesstimate” that the smoke, water and fire damage from a 40-minute fire could cost up to $250,000 to repair.