Throughout the colder months and especially during the Fall and Winter seasons when temperatures begin dropping, secondary sources of heating such as fireplaces and wood stoves or appliances are used to keep families and their homes warm and cozy. Did you know the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there are more than 17.5 million fireplaces, 241,000 hydronic heaters, and 10.1 million wood stoves nationwide.
It is important to understand how to properly use your fireplace or wood stove and keep up with maintenance to prevent fires and harm to you and your loved ones. Follow these safety tips below to protect your family and keep them safe around fireplaces:
Fireplace Safety Tips:
· Have the chimney regularly cleaned and inspected by a certified professional.
· Provide proper ventilation for gas fireplaces and keep a working carbon monoxide detector nearby.
· Use only dry, seasoned firewood to prevent buildup of creosote (a flammable tar deposited from wood smoke).
· Use a sturdy screen to prevent sparks and embers from flying out of the fireplace.
· Keep the fireplace damper open while hot ashes are still in the fireplace. Closing it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
· Do not use flammable liquid to start fires in fireplaces or wood stoves.
· Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case the fire gets out of control.
Wood Stove Safety Tips:
· If you plan to buy a new stove, have a qualified professional install the stove, chimney, and connectors. Choose a stove that’s approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
· Place your wood stove on a floor pad at least three feet away from walls, furniture, curtains, and other flammable material. Similarly, keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the stove.
· Before the heating season begins, have your chimney, flue vents, and stove inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. As a DIY task, check latches, hinges, and gaskets regularly, and keep an eye out for damage.
· Remove ashes regularly and dispose of them safely. Let ashes cool (as they can contain live coals) before discarding them in a covered metal container. Keep the container outside, 10 or more feet away from your home and other buildings.
· Burn only dry, seasoned wood, such as maple, beech, ash, hickory, or oak. Don’t burn green wood, cardboard, or trash to prevent creosote buildup in your chimney flue.
· Never use gasoline, charcoal starter fluid, or other flammable liquids to start your fire or to increase the intensity of the fire. These substances might explode or flare-up.
· Store wood safely in a dry place, protected from the elements, such as under a shed or tarp. This also allows the wood to dry faster. In addition, keep the wood away from heat sources to reduce fire risks.
· Always supervise children when a wood stove is being used. Teach them to stay at least three feet away from a hot stove. Don’t allow pets near the stove, either.
· Ensure your home is equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. Install them outside each bedroom and on every level of the home. Interconnect all smoke and CO alarms throughout your house, so when one sounds, they all do. Test alarms monthly.
· Keep a Class A fire extinguisher handy. A portable fire extinguisher can help you to quickly put out a small fire.