Woodstove & Fireplace Safety
More than one third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves or other fuel fired appliances as their primary source of heat. Unfortunately, heating fires account for 36% of all residential home fires each year.
There’s nothing quite as comfortable on a winter day as nice warm fire in the fireplace. In addition to the comfort, the relatively inexpensive cost to heat a home with wood has made woodstoves more popular then ever in the last few years.
For those of you who are new to heating with a woodstove here are some important safety precautions that could protect your house as well as your life.
Use Good Wood
According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, apple, red oak, sugar maple, beech & ironwood have the best heating values.
The wood you burn should be dry and seasoned; seasoned meaning split & put up somewhere to dry 6 months prior to burning it. Dry and well seasoned wood will not only minimize the chance of creosote formation, but will provide the most efficient fire.
Never burn coal or an alternative heating fuel in your wood stove.
Never start a fire with flammable fluids, such as gasoline
Protect the inside and outside of your home
Make sure the area around your woodstove is as fireproof as you can make it. Make sure there is enough clearance between the stove and combustible materials including floors, walls and ceilings. Consider concrete board, tile or metal over your floor. If you think a spark has escaped and is smoldering somewhere use water to wet all around the area rather then assuming it simply extinguished on it’s own.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and especially near to sleeping areas. Test the alarms monthly and replace the batteries annually.
Don’t forget the outside of your house either. Make sure your firewood is stacked at least 30 feet away from your house. Keep the roof clear of leaves, needles & branches. Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
Be prepared for a fire
In spite of all the steps you take to prevent the damage that can be caused by a fire in your woodstove, fires occur and you need to be prepared for this to prevent panic.
Keep at least one fire extinguisher handy for every wood burning stove you might have in your house. It is recommended that you use a class 1A:10BC dry chemical fire extinguisher and don’t forget that they have an expiration date. Check them at least annually and replace them before they expire.
Make sure you and your family know how to exit the house safely and discuss where you plan to meet after getting out.
Keep fire department and emergency numbers posted near every phone in your house and program them into your cell phone. When there is a fire, call the fire department before you do anything else. If you’re dealing with a chimney fire, close all the stove's draft louvers and dampers; this will help suffocate the fire prior to the arrival of the fire department.
As previously mentioned, a woodstove can be an effective and frugal way to heat your home but only if you do it safely. Everyone is also encouraged to contact their local fire department for more tips and suggestions.