How To Keep Your Wood Stove From Starting a Fire (Wood Stove Fire Safety)

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Despite ongoing fire safety education, every winter wood stove fires result in new home tragedies that could have been easily prevented. Wood stove fires commonly occur when basic wood stove maintenance is neglected or when common sense fire safety precautions are ignored.

Alternative home heating methods become more and more popular as the cost of energy has continued to rise, and wood stoves are one of the most economical methods of all. Four cords of wood at $150 USD per cord can usually heat an average home for an entire winter—a significant savings compared to $200 per month or more for electricity or gas.

Wood stove fires don’t have to happen at all though. The following basic wood stove fire safety tips can keep any home toasty and warm without undue danger:

Have the wood stove cleaned professionally at least once per year. Creosote is a flammable byproduct of burning wood that can ignite and start a wood stove fire if the creosote is not removed on a regular basis. Burning wood on warm days can cause creosote to build up in the chimney especially fast. The more often a wood stove is used, the more often it should be cleaned. One professional cleaning per year is required; two may be necessary with some stoves.

Burn only well-seasoned hardwood. Burning green wood or trash trees in a conventional wood stove creates lots of smoke and waste, which can clog the chimney and encourage wood stove fires. Wood should be cut in the spring of one year and burned in the winter of the next at minimum. Longer seasoning is even better. The drier the wood, the cleaner the burn.
Replace cracked or broken parts. Never keep burning woo
d in a stove with cracked or broken parts. Check the chimney every year for wear and replace as necessary, hiring a professional if needed.
Don’t stack papers or flammable items near a woodstove or dry clothes nearby. Wood stove fires often happen when an item of clothing that has been left on or near a wood stove ignites. Storing newspapers or magazines within a few feet or a wood stove is another common cause of wood stove fires. Never dry damp clothes on or near the stove.

Check installation for compliance with local building codes. Many people feel a sense of false confidence when it comes to installing wood stoves. Most communities have strict safety standards for installation to insure safety. Hire a professional if these standards are confusing or challenging, or have your do-it-yourself home installation inspected before operating the stove. Improper installation and venting cause many wood stove fires.

Most fire safety tips are based on common sense, but anyone can fall into bad habits once a wood stove becomes a familiar feature of a front room or kitchen. Observing basic fire safety and installing and maintaining stove properly can prevent costly and dangerous wood stove fires and keep a home safely and economically warm all winter long.

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