Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety Tips

The largest source of fire in American homes comes from fuel burning appliances. The main causes of fire include inadequate clearance between the wood burner and walls, floors and furniture; creosote buildup in the chimney; poorly or improperly installed chimneys and improper installation of the wood burner itself. Fireplace and wood stove safety can save your home from a fire.

The U.S. Fire Administration states that 75 percent of confined home heating fires occur in the chimney and flue of your fireplace. Performing simple fireplace and wood stove safety measures and maintenance on your fireplace will ensure your family and home stay safe.

Facts about home heating fires

  • From 2013-2015, an average of 45,900 home heating fires occurred in the United States each year. These fires caused an annual average of approximately 205 deaths, 725 injuries and $506 million in property loss.
  • Heating was the second leading cause of home fires after cooking.
  • Home heating fires peaked in the early evening hours between 5 and 9 p.m. with the highest peak between 6 and 8 p.m. This four-hour period accounted for 29 percent of all home heating fires.
  • Home heating fires peaked in January (21 percent) and declined to the lowest point from June to August.
  • Confined fires — fires confined to chimneys, flues or fuel burners — accounted for 75 percent of home heating fires.
  • Twenty-nine percent of the nonconfined home heating fires — fires that spread past the object of origin — happened because the heat source (like a space heater or fire place) was too close to things that can burn.

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Fireplace Safety Tips

Here are some fireplace safety tips to consider:

  1. Keep it clear. Clear out any debris from the fireplace and keep all flammable items like furniture, blankets and papers a safe distance away at all times.
  2. Inspect the chimney. Have a certified chimney specialist inspect and clean your chimney annually to reduce the risk of fire and carbon monoxide buildup.
  3. Start the fire safely. Never burn charcoal or use lighter fluids to light the fire in your home, as they can cause deadly fumes and the potential for explosion.
  4. Don’t overload the fire. Overloading—putting in more wood, paper and other ignitable materials than necessary—can overheat the walls or roof of your home.
  5. Keep children away from the fireplace. Give warning about the dangers of fire to deter curiosity, and consider installing a gate around the fireplace to prevent kids from getting too close.
  6. Put it out. Before leaving your home for the night or going to sleep, ensure the fire is completely out first.

Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety

Take extra precautions with fireplace and wood stove safety to keep your family safe from potential fireplace damage. If you burn fires often, consider installing new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

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Wood Burning Stove Safety

Use these tips to safely use your wood burning stove:

  • Read the instructions for your wood burning stove and follow them carefully.
  • Inspect the firebrick liner in your stove, if you have one. Should the liner show signs of wear, replace it immediately and do not use the unit until the liner is replaced.
  • Do not use flammable or combustible liquid (gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, etc.) to start a fire.
  • Burn wood recommended by the manufacturer only.
  • Do not burn plastic, wood or garbage that has been painted or treated with chemicals.
  • Be sure to have properly maintained smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and an approved multi-purpose fire extinguisher in your home.
  • Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. Doing so will cause the fire to heat up which will force toxic carbon monoxide into your house.
  • Take extra care when disposing of hot ashes and remember that these embers may still be hot for several days.

Safety Is The First Priority

Solid fuel units tend to require a lot more maintenance than other heating systems. Therefore, regular inspections and care are needed to protect your home and family against fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

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