With the increased cost in utilities, more homeowners may return to using their fireplace or wood stove for additional heating. With this in mind, there are some safety precautions that need to be followed to insure a safe heating season.
- Clear the area around the fireplace/wood stove and chimney. Debris too close to the fireplace/wood stove could cause a fire. Check the flue for obstructions like bird's nests, and trim any overhanging branches or large trees near the chimney.
- Always use a fireplace screen or have the wood stove door closed.
- Never overload the fireplace/wood stove with too many logs.
- Don't use it as an incinerator, and never burn garbage, Christmas trees, or piles of paper.
- Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and place smoke detectors throughout the house. Test the smoke detectors and batteries regularly. See that the extinguisher is in good working order and that all family members know how to operate it.
- When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace, preferably on a grate.
- Never leave a fire in a fireplace unattended. Be sure the fire is extinguished before you go to bed.
- Keep wood stacked, covered and outside, away from the house and off the ground. Bring in only as much as you need for one evening to prevent insects that may be in the wood from entering your home.
- Have your fireplace inspected annually and cleaned, when necessary, by a certified chimney sweep.
- Choose the right fuel. In general, hardwood firewood (oak, hickory, ash, etc.) burns cleaner than softwood firewood (fir, pine, cedar, etc.).
- Use seasoned wood. Wood with a moisture content of less than 20 percent burns much cleaner than green (high moisture content) wood. Check with your cordwood supplier to make sure that the wood you purchase is seasoned.
- Burn smartly. Good fireplace habits can decrease fuel consumption in the home while maintaining the same level of warmth. Make sure the fire gets enough air to burn properly. Close the damper when the fire is out to keep warm air inside.
- Make a fire that fits your fireplace/wood stove. A fire that's too large or too hot not only wastes fuel; it can crack your chimney.
- Keep your fireplace in good working condition. If you notice any cracks in the chimney, and/or any loose mortar or brick, have your chimney repaired. Have the chimney liner inspected for cracking or deterioration.
- Properly dispose of the ashes and coal. When cleaning out woodstoves and fireplaces, it is important to properly dispose the ashes and coal. There are several ways to do this to prevent home fires and forest fires.
A few years ago, BCTV worked with David Walker with the North Carolina Forest Services to produce a video called "Proper Disposal of Wood Stove Ashes". This video will demonstrate the safe way to clean out your wood stove or fireplaces and preventing fires. Make sure to check more information about heating with wood on buncombecounty.org.
You may also view BCTV's video "Heating with Wood" which was produced with the help of WNC Air Quality.