During the cold winter months, nothing beats the comfort and warmth of a crackling fireplace or a cozy, often richly pungent, wood stove. However, due to negligence in use and maintenance, up to 45% of all fires were caused by heating systems of this nature in the year 2001, according to a report issued by the Office of the State Fire Marshall, Department of Fire Services in Stow, Massachusetts. Here is how you can safely use – and enjoy – a fireplace, wood stove or other solid fueled appliance:
Purchase only a wood or coal-burning stove that has been approved by Underwriter’s Laboratory or another recognized testing laboratory.
Obtain a building permit prior to installation of fireplaces, wood or coal-burning stoves and get an inspection by your local building inspector prior to initial use, as required by your State Building Code.
Provide a minimum of 36” of clearance around the appliance to prevent combustibles from coming in contact with a heat source.
Keep newspapers, wood, matches and other items that could catch fire away from the wood stove or fireplace.
Know that solid fuel heating appliances cannot share a common flue with chimney flues utilized by other solid fuel, fossil fuel, or gas--fired appliances.
Have a qualified mason inspect the chimney and flue prior to use. Flames and heated gases can extend into the structure due to cracks in the flue or mortar joints.
Have your chimney flue cleaned before each heating season. Build-ups of creosote, a tarry by-product of burning wood, are the major cause of chimney fires. With this in mind, use only dry, well-seasoned, hardwood to reduce creosote accumulation.
Never use flammable liquids to start the fire.
Only allow supervised children and pets near a wood-burning stove.
Be sure the damper is open before igniting the fire. If closed, significant amounts of smoke and carbon monoxide will be released into the home. And never close the damper before the fire has died out completely and the embers are cold.
Always close a fireplace screen to prevent flying sparks from falling out onto the floor and furnishings.
Properly dispose of ashes by shoveling them into a metal bucket with a metal lid and placing outside, on the ground, away from the building, to prevent fires. NEVER place ashes in a paper bag or cardboard box, since they can stay “alive” for days and ignite any surrounding combustibles.
Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to provide maximum safety for you and your family (SEE SMOKE DETECTORS AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS).