The high cost of home heating fuel and utilities have caused many Americans to search for alternative sources of home heating. The use of wood burning stoves is growing and space heaters are selling rapidly, or coming out of storage. Fireplaces may be wood burning or use man-made logs.
All of these methods of heating may be acceptable. They are however, a major contributing factor in residential fires. Many of these fires can be prevented. The following fire safety tips can help you maintain a fire safe home this winter:
´Be sure the stove or fireplace is installed properly. Woodstoves should have adequate clearance, 36 in., from combustible surfaces, and proper floor support and protection. Woodstoves should be of good quality and 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, 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 to 30 minutes to reduce the amount of creosote buildup.
´Do not 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 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.
´Finally be sure that every level of your home has a working smoke alarm, and be sure to check and clean it on a monthly basis.
Contact your local fire department for advice if you have a question on home fire safety.