Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Put A Freeze On Winter Fires – Preventing Wood Stove and Fireplace Related Fires

Wood stoves and fireplaces are becoming a very common heat source in homes. Careful attention to safety can minimize a fire related emergency. To use them safely: 

Be sure the stove or fireplace is installed properly by a professional. Wood stoves should have adequate clearance (36”) from combustible surfaces, and proper floor support and protection.  

Wood stoves should be of good quality, solid construction and design, and should be UL listed. 

Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.  

Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.                         

Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening, to prevent embers or sparks from igniting combustibles outside the fireplace, unwanted material from going in, and help prevent the possibility of bums to occupants.  The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.               

Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.  

Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide. 

Keep flammable materials away from your mantel. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials. 

Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. NEVER close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.

If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.

Fireplace ashes can maintain enough heat to re-ignite for several days after a fire. When cleaning out the ashes, always assume they are still hot and use a metal can to contain them in for disposal. The metal can should be stored away from the home (at least 20 feet and NEVER keep it in an attached garage or on a deck).
Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as two minutes to escape safely. Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning-a home fire escape plan that everyone in your family is familiar with and has practiced.

Because fires can grow and spread so quickly, having working smoke alarms in your home can mean the difference between life and death. Once the alarm sounds, you may have as few as two minutes to escape. Smoke alarms are the most effective early warning devices available.

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