A properly installed and carefully maintained fireplace or wood burning stove can provide the warmth and comfort you need in winter. It also provide the perfect heating alternative when there is a power outage. However, as more than 30% of residential fires are caused by these devices, it’s essential to know how to use them safely and understand the importance of regular maintenance.
Ensure the fireplace or stove is properly installed
Most fire safety codes require that a wood burning stove must be at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture and other items. Keep flammable materials away from your fireplace mantle. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials.
Choose the right wood
Use well-seasoned firewood that has been dried for six months to a year. Logs that are soft or moist can burn off creosote, a residue that can build up in chimneys and is the leading cause of chimney fires. Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
Light small fires
Light a small fire and then add small pieces of seasoned firewood as required. Burning a big pile of wood causes incomplete burning and can result in overheating of the fireplace and chimney.
Before starting a fire in your wood stove or fireplace, be sure the draft is open wide. This allows proper ventilation for your fire.
Close the screen
Always use a fireplace screen or glass doors. Never keep your wood burning stove door open unless you have a sturdy screen in front of it to prevent flying sparks from catching on something flammable.
Never burn paper or trash
Burning paper or trash in the wood burning stove may seem like a quick way to light a fire. However, this practice is dangerous because these substances are highly combustible and may emanate toxic gases.
Keep children and pets away
Never leave a wood burning stove unsupervised. Make sure your children and pets are a safe distance away. Installing a safety gate around the wood burning stove is an effective way of maintaining a boundary.
Put out the fire before you go to sleep
Make sure your fire is extinguished before you go to bed or leave your home. NEVER close the 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.
Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Any home that uses a wood burning stove must have a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. These devices warn you in times of danger and can save your home and family—keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Keep the stove or fireplace clean
A clogged chimney or a fireplace that is coated in residue will result in a smoky and possibly dangerous fire. Make sure to have your unit professionally cleaned at least once a year by a certified chimney sweep.