As winter is in full swing, those who enjoy the occasional fire in wood-burning fireplaces or heat their rooms with a woodstove must keep in mind that heating equipment is also one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months. Following these simple safety tips can help prevent a fire accident:
- Only qualified professionals should install stoves, chimney connectors, and chimneys.
- Stoves should have the label of an independent testing laboratory.
- The chimney cap should be inspected. If it is damaged, it must be repaired or replaced. (During the summer months, chimneys should be covered with a cap fitted with wire-mesh sides, to keep out debris, rain, squirrels, birds and other critters.)
- Chimneys, stoves and vents should be inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep every fall just before heating season. (A furnace should be serviced at least once a year.)
- The inside of stoves should be cleaned periodically using a wire brush.
- Chimneys should be checked for creosote build-up. Failing to clean the built up creosote is the leading cause for chimney fires. This service needs to be done at least once a year.
- It is very dangerous to use flammable liquids when starting a fire. Kindling should be used instead.
- Wood stoves should burn only dry, seasoned wood. Pellet stoves should burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
- A mesh metal screen or glass fireplace doors should be used to prevent embers from shooting out of the fireplace. When using a woodstove, the door must be closed and secured.
- Ashes must cool for several hours before disposing of them. They should be placed in a covered metal container, at least 10 feet away from buildings.
- Children and pets should be supervised whenever a wood or pellet stove is being used. They must be reminded to stay at least 3 feet away from the stove.
- Space heaters must never be placed near drapes, shades or bedding, and never left unattended, especially when children and pets are around.
- Owners of old heaters should consider replacing it with a new model that has more current safety features, such as tip-over protection (these heaters shut off automatically if they happens to fall over).
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms (CO) should be installed an maintained outside each sleeping area and on every level of a home. For the best protection, CO alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all sound.