Norwich Fire Department would like to remind you of the proper ways to dispose of leftover ashes. Even though a fire may appear to be out, embers and ash can remain hot enough to start a fire days after you think the fire is out. Improper ash disposal from indoor/outdoor fireplaces and wood burning stoves cause thousands of fires every year. To be safe, simply treat all ashes and coals as hot, even when you think they have had time enough to cool. Proper disposal of fireplace ashes and hot embers is important to prevent fires. Many people do not realize the length of time required for ashes to cool enough for disposal. Even after several days, a pile of ashes can hold enough heat to reignite and start a fire. Four days (96 hours) is the minimum cooling period for ashes. Extra care should be used in the storage and final disposal.

Here are recommended tips for ash disposal:

  • All ashes should be stored in a fire-resistant metal container with a TIGHT FITTING METAL COVER. This helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing ashes which can leave hot coals exposed for reigniting. Approved containers are available at local retailers. Ashes should NEVER be disposed in a plastic can or bucket, a cardboard box, or paper/plastic bags and NEVER use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes.
  • Make sure there are no hot spots left in the ashes. This is done by soaking them in water or letting them sit for several days and then double checking for hot spots. This would apply to charcoal grill ashes as well.
  • Ashes should be kept in a metal container outside, away from the house, to cool. Your
    garage, shed, or decks are dangerous locations for ashes to cool. After ashes have cooled in a metal container, it is necessary to find a suitable disposal site. Never dump ashes until they have had at least four days to cool.
  • Even after four days, care should be given in selecting a dump site. Wooded areas should always be avoided. Garden areas or flower beds that are away from the house are ideal locations to dump cooled ashes, allowing many nutrients to return to the soil. Please survey the area and evaluate any additional hazards before disposing of your cooled ashes. Make sure all dry leaves have been removed from the area before dumping your ashes in either a garden or flower bed, and remember to moisten the area.