Fire, smoke came between chimney bricks

Thursday, January 10, 2013

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

A Blue Creek home suffered more smoke and water damage than fire damage last week from a blaze, prompting residents to move in with neighbors while the house is repaired.

No one was hurt, but the Jan. 2 chimney fire at Patsy and John David Hamlett's home serves as a reminder that chimneys must be inspected and cleaned annually, South Marshall Volunteer Fire Chief Phil Dyer said Monday.

In this case, a two-sided chimney complicated the emergency. The Hamletts had their chimney cleaned twice a year, thinking its unused side didn't need attention, Patsy Hamlett said.

She was in another room that Wednesday evening when she heard a crackling sound and went to the fireplace, where she saw smoke and flames rising from behind a mirror over the mantel, Hamlett said.

"It was very fortunate that I heard and saw it," she said. "I called 911 quick."

Her son, David, used a fire extinguisher and put water on the fire. Several volunteer departments responded.

"They saved our house," said Hamlett, praising the emergency crews from South Marshall Volunteer Fire Department, Cornersville, Richland, North Giles VFD, Lynnville, and Marshall County Emergency Management Agency.

"We use one side for a wood stove to heat the house," Patsy Hamlett said, while she and her daughter packed up belongings to clear the house for a repair crew.

The brick chimney is between rooms, Dyer said. Creosote in the chimney caught fire and the chief said he believes creosote that had built up above the hearth at one side of the chimney caught fire, although that couldn't be confirmed until a brick mason's work cleared both sides.

The Hamletts' fire prompted comments on Facebook, reflecting, "How difficult this is for anyone, much less an older couple in the dead of winter." A Facebook user asked what could be done for the couple.

"We're doing fine," Patsy Hamlett said. "We have children to help and insurance. We're grateful for the thought."

Nevertheless, she agrees with Dyer's public appeal, "Please, have your chimney inspected and cleaned yearly."