Investigators determine cause of deadly Christmas house fire - abc27 WHTM

Franklin County

Investigators determine cause of deadly Christmas house fire

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Investigators now know what started the house fire that killed a Franklin County man on Christmas morning.   They say a cracked vent pipe above a wood stove is to blame.

Wednesday, Trooper Jeff Sarver, the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal, spent time on the scene off of Path Valley Road in Peters Township.

"What we have been able to determine up to this point is that the fire started most likely at the wood stove, actually where the vent pipe comes into the chimney," he said.

Sarver explained that gases are released when wood burns.  In this case, instead of leaving through the vent pipe, gases in the stove leaked into the kitchen.   As the wood stove warmed the room, it got smoky in the kitchen.

By opening the door to ventilate the kitchen, the homeowner unknowingly added the final ingredient to the fatal recipe.  Oxygen rushed in and the entire room burst into flames.

Investigators say other factors, made the already bad fire, even worse.

"There were a lot of things in this structure that would have aided in the spread of the fire,"  Trooper Sarver explained.

He said Styrofoam insulation and metal siding contributed to the high temperature of the fire.

Investigators say fires like this are preventable, by proper cleaning and inspection.  They say homeowners should never be fooled by the appearance of a wood stove.

"It's really not what's going on at the wood stove that matters as much as what's going on at the vent pipe going into the chimney," Trooper Sarver explained, "That's the crucial point right there."

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