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Pool heater catches fire

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 13, 2016

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Crews from three West Bloomfield fire stations responded to a structure fire in the 6300 block of St. James Drive, near West Maple and Orchard Lake roads, shortly after midnight June 28.

According to Fire Marshal Byron Turnquist, the residents smelled something burning, and upon investigation, they found a fire near their pool heater and deck. The fire had spread to a nearby fence and overhang, he said. 

The homeowner began fighting the fire with a garden horse, and when crew members arrived, they were able to extinguish the fire quickly, Turnquist said. There were no reported injuries, and the fire did not reach the house.  

The Fire Department has battled pool heater fires in the past, and Turnquist said that oftentimes homeowners install the heaters on wooden decks. Over time, the wood dries, and a fire can occur. 

Turnquist suggested that homeowners routinely check the wood under and around pool heaters to ensure there is no discoloration. 

“Make sure there’s a gap between the heater and the deck, or anything that’s combustible, really,” Turnquist said. Wooden decking, pool toys, inflatable rafts, umbrellas and debris can be considered “combustibles,” and those items should be at least 3 feet away from any heat source.

In addition, residents should check to make sure there is no damage to any gas or service lines around the heater. In this case, Turnquist said, the homeowner reportedly had a maintenance company start the heater, but whether or not an inspection occurred is unknown. 

“It’s a good idea to keep all combustibles from heat sources, whether it’s a barbecue grill or a pool heater — anything that puts off heat can potentially cause a fire,” Turnquist said. 

Noting that the homeowners were alert to the burning smell, Fire Chief Greg Flynn said all residents should be aware of not only their own home, but their neighbors’ homes.

“If something seems unusual, take a few extra seconds to look into it. It keeps the community safer that way,” Flynn said.

Smoke detectors should also be checked regularly. 

“The last thing we want is a fire to spread from the deck and get into the house where everyone’s sleeping, and you don’t know about it until it’s too late,” Turnquist said.

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