Logan Thompson loads a log into a wood-burning stove. Officials urge residents to follow safety guidelines when using wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Because heating related fires account for 36 percent of all home fires in rural areas each year, the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department is offering some tips to prevent these type of fires.
According to the department, more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves, and other fuel-fired appliances as the primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.
Often fires are the result of creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes, and fire officials say home heating systems require regular maintenance including:
• Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
• Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.
• Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
• Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
• Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
• Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
• Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
• Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
• Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
• When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
• Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
• Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
• Keep the roof clear of leaves, pines needles and other debris.
• Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
• Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues and vents.