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Attic Heater Safety

The Murrieta Fire Department is making homeowners aware of a possible forced air attic heating unit fire and carbon monoxide poisoning danger. We have been called to two fully involved attic fires occurring during the early morning hours in winter. Our investigators have determined that the attic heating unit was the cause of those blazes. After researching data on these units, we were given an article in a recent "Contractor’s" magazine by Robert P. Mader that describes the danger. It turns out that the heating units causing the fires were manufactured by the same company, Consolidated Industries, between 1983 and 1989. They were manufactured for different companies and may have many different labels. The names we have come across are included in this comprehensive list of heating units at risk for causing fires.

The fires occurring in Murrieta were in units with the Premiere and Goettl labels, 100,000 Btu. The message from the Murrieta Fire Department is three-fold:

  1. All residents should have their annual service on their forced air heating units and fireplaces completed before the weather turns really cold.
  2. If they live in a home with an attic forced air heating unit, they may have a dangerous situation that is easily identified by professionals. The heat exchange tubes in the unit may develop a hole or crack. As indicated in the Contractor’s magazine article, this problem has been associated with units manufactured by Consolidated Industries in Lafayette, Ind. between 1983 and 1989. They would probably have been installed through 1990. The problem is with the 75,000 and 100,000 Btu units. The unit is distinguished by a burner chamber cover located on the bottom of both sides of the unit near the gas controls. It is about 4 inches tall and 24 inches long shaped like an "L." With a crack in the heat exchange tubes, the heating flame is disturbed and can roll outside the furnace. The burner chamber cover deflects the flame downward and can set attic structural members beneath the unit on fire. In addition, with a hole in the heat exchange tubes, products of combustion, specifically carbon monoxide, can be blown throughout the home. Also, the collection box for combustion gasses can deteriorate. Typically this occurs when a protective device is bypassed or deactivated. The sheet metal becomes too hot. Over time, this will allow hot metal embers to fall on ceiling insulation or plywood decking underneath the heating unit. Finally, we have found double wall vent pipe not properly connected. This allows products of combustion, including carbon monoxide, to fill the attic and over long periods of use, the house. If you have an attic forced air heating unit, bring the above information to the attention of your service representative. Since the November 11, 1998 fire, two additional units neighboring homes have been found defective and will be replaced. Five pictures below will hopefully help understand the issues discussed above.
  3. Residents who regularly use their fireplaces during the winter should also have them serviced. On November 28, 1998 we had the first fireplace-caused fire of the 1998 winter season. The attic was partially destroyed. We have had at least one fireplace related fire each year for the previous three years.

Don't let fire ruin your holiday season.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, you may contact the Murrieta Fire Department at (951) 304-FIRE.