Two families are fortunate to be uninjured and sheltered after a pair of unrelated heating system incidents, according to town rescue personnel.

A Maple Avenue home sustained smoke and heat damage Saturday afternoon when creosote buildup and an improper fireplace conversion combined to ignite a chimney fire.

The chimney had not been cleaned in a year and a half, Freeport Fire Chief Darrell Fournier said. A wood-burning stove had been installed where the original fireplace existed, and a piece of plywood was used to close off the fireplace’s original flue damper. What’s more, the original hearth’s firebox had been filled with stacked firewood.

Heated creosote burned through the plywood, then fell onto the stacked wood, which combusted and fed the flue fire. Extreme heat from the blaze cracked the fireplace and rendered it useless, Fournier said.

The owners were not home at the time of the blaze.

“There was a lot of smoke and heat (damage) in the residence, but the structure itself did not catch fire,” Fournier said. “They’re very fortunate.”

In a separate call late the previous evening, fire crews arrived at a Flying Point Road home where snow falling from the house’s roof dislodged a furnace exhaust pipe, causing a carbon monoxide buildup inside the house.

Carbon monoxide detectors alerted the homeowners about 11:30 p.m. Friday, who called the fire department and then got out of the house.

Crews arrived and vented the house. They also determined that improper installation of the exhaust pipe contributed to the incident. Wood screws, instead of sheet metal screws, were used to fasten the pipe and backing plate.

“It’s another example of how CO detectors can save people’s lives,” Fournier said.

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