Fireplace safety begins with a properly-installed chimney or ventilation system. This helps move the by products of combustion out of the home. Properly placed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also a must in any home with wood-burning appliances.
What some people fail to consider is that the building an efficient, productive fire has as much to do with the wood as the appliance that houses it. To build an efficient fire:
- Use only seasoned wood. Seasoned wood is wood, hard or soft, that has been cut and allowed to dry for 6-9 months.
- Seasoned wood should be cut and stacked off the ground, preferably in a spot that receives good sunlight and air movement. Cutting the wood allows air to blow across both ends, evaporating moisture inside. Cover the top of the wood to prevent re-wetting from precipitation. The wood pile should also be located away from the house and other structures to prevent the infestation of wood destroying insects.
- Using dry, seasoned wood also reduces the build-up of creosote; a by-product of wood burning that collects on the inside of the chimney and can ignite, causing dangerous chimney fires. When creosote reaches ¼ inch of thickness on the walls of the chimney flue, have it cleaned by a trained professional. Inspect the chimney frequently to check for creosote buildup.
- Start fires using clean newspapers and dry kindling, never garbage, plastics or treated wood.
- Let the fire burn down to coals, and then rake the coals toward the air inlet, creating a mount. Do not spread the coals flat.
- Regularly remove ashes from the woodstove into a metal container with a cover. Store ashes outdoors on a nonflammable surface until completely cooled.
Information for this article came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.com.