Before Santa shows up in the Washington area on Christmas Eve, he might want to check his workers compensation coverage, judging from fire department reports on Sunday detailing at least four fires or malfunctions in or near fireplaces or chimneys.
It is unclear whether the houses will show up on a special list kept by the jolly white- bearded gent who heads down the structures that usually send smoke up. Also unclear is how the incidents will affect the hanging of stockings.
But in the first of the untoward events, in the Fort Washington area of Prince George's County fire caused about $200,000 in damage, according to the county fire department.
The department's spokesman, Mark E. Brady, said a missing chimney brick allowed a fireplace fire to extend out and go into the walls of a house in the 12200 block of Braemer Circle. Nobody was injured but one occupant was displaced, he said.
In two other incidents that also might give Santa second thoughts, one chimney fire and one chimney malfunction occurred in Montgomery County, according to county fire department spokesman Pete Piringer.
In one, firefighters pulled up to a house in the Layhill area to find nobody going down the chimney, but, Piringer said, fire was coming out of it.
The chimney was on a house in the 13800 block of North Gate Drive, Piringer said. All occupants got out safely, Piringer said.
The second chimney incident was in the 8300 block of Marketree Circle, in the Montgomery Village area, Piringer said. He described it as a malfunction, not a fire.
In the District, a blaze broke out Sunday night in a house in the 1700 block of 13th St NW, the DC Fire and EMS department said.
The fire, which was determined to be accidental, started "in the area of" a gas operated fireplace, the fire department said.
It is possible that some think Santa can not find a way in to houses with gas operated fireplaces. However, information from the Chimney Safety Institute of America suggests otherwise.
Just as do wood-burning fireplaces, a the institute said, a gas-operated fire place "also relies on the chimney for proper venting of the exhaust."
The fire department said no one was injured in the 13th Street fire. Three people and two pets were displaced but have a place to go, the fire department said
And it appeared that two weeks remain for Washington's chimneys to be put in Santa-safe shape.