As winter comes to a close we all need to be careful with our fireplaces and chimneys. With that in mind more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.
Heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stove pipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently.
Here are some tips to assist you in cleaning and maintenance.
• Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
• Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
• Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
• Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
• Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
• Keep air inlets on wood stoves open and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
• Use fire resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.
• Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
• Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
• When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting gate.
• Never leave a fire in a fireplace unattended. Always extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
• Soak hot ashes in water and place them in a metal container outside and away your home.
• When stacking wood try to keep it at least 30 feet away from your home.
• Keep your roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
• Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
• Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change batteries at least once a year.
• Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
Last year alone the Brained Fire/Rescue Department responded to approximately 30 some calls that involved issues of this type.
And as I always say, be safe out there!! For any questions or concerns feel free to call or stop. Our number is 828-2312 andw e are here 24 hours/seven days a week to assist you.
KEVIN H. STUNEK is the Brainerd Fire Chief