Due to rising utility costs, many Americans are turning to wood-burning stoves, space heaters, and man-made logs to heat their homes. Although adequate, such methods are a major contributing factor to numerous residential fires. Careful attention to safety precautions, like the ones provided below by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), can help you minimize fire hazards and maintain a fire-safe home this winter.
Safety Tips for Wood Stoves and Fireplaces
- Be sure the fireplace or stove is installed properly. Woodstoves should have adequate clearance (36”) from combustible surfaces and proper floor support and protection.
- Woodstoves should be of good quality, solid construction and design, and should be Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed.
- Have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.
- Do not use flammable liquids to start or accelerate any fire.
- Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in, and help prevent the possibility of burns to occupants.
- The stove should be burned hot twice a day for 15-30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.
- Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.
- Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
- Keep flammable materials away from your fireplace mantel. A spark from the fireplace could easily ignite these materials.
- Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. NEVER close your 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.
- If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. NEVER break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.
Other Fire Safety Tips
- Never discard hot ashes inside or near the home. Place them in a metal container outside and well away from the house.
- Never use a range or an oven as a supplemental heating device. Not only is it a safety hazard, it can be a source of potentially toxic fumes.
- If you use an electric heater, be sure not to overload the circuit. Only use extension cords which have the necessary rating to carry the amp load. TIP: Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electric cord.
- Avoid using electric space heaters in the bathrooms or other areas where they may come in contact with water.
- Frozen water pipes? Never try to thaw them with a blow torch or other open flame (otherwise the pipe could conduct the heat and ignite the wall structure inside the wall space). Use hot water or a UL labeled device such as a hand held dryer for thawing.
- If windows are used as emergency exits in your home, practice using them in the event fire should strike. Be sure that all the windows open easily. Home escape ladders are recommended.
- If there is a fire hydrant near your home, you can assist the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of snow so in the event it is needed, it can be located.
- Be sure every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, and be sure to check and clean it on a monthly basis.
- Plan and practice a home escape plan with your family.
- Contact your local fire department for advice if you have a question on Home Fire Safety.
* Reference: FEMA. Original content can be found at: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/l-97.pdf