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BLM>California>Alturas>Wood Heat - Preventing Home Fires
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Alturas Field Office

How to Prevent Home Fires

1. Burn only dry and well-seasoned wood. Never burn quantities of paper, such as Christmas wrapping, or cardboard boxes. This material can quickly rise up the chimney and cause a flue fire. Never burn trash or garbage, especially plastics or aluminum cans.

2. Keep a fire hot enough to prevent creosote accumulation. Check your chimney. If you see heavy smoke, creosote is probably forming. Use only a small amount of wood and re-fill the box several times a day and night. For both heat efficiency and fire safety, a small, hot fire is better than an overloaded, smoldering fire.

In using the modern "air-tight" stoves, the stove draft should be opened at least twice a day to allow the fire to produce enough high temperature to dissolve any creosote build-up. The recommended time is 15-30 minutes of full flame. Do not overload the fire box as this impedes air circulation and allows for creosote build-up.

3. Inspect the stove and chimney often to ensure that creosote is not forming. Use a flashlight and check up the firebox or look down the chimney from the roof. Tap the metal flue pipe. A dull sound or the sound of falling "clinkers" indicates serious creosote build-up. Even 1/8 inch thickness of creosote is enough to burn. Also check the flue cap and spark arrestor to ensure proper operation. Many of the local fire departments will make this inspection for you. All you have to do is ask.

4. Clean your stove, flue and chimney regularly. Use a chimney brush that properly fits the flue. Clean at least twice during the burning season and again in spring. Cleaning in spring is important in this country as cool nights are always possible during the summer and a warming fire may be desired. A flue fire in summer can be extremely dangerous because the roof is so dry. When cleaning, always check the system for cracks, damaged parts and proper air flows. Stove' safety features should be tested to ensure proper operation. Immediately repair any defects found. Always refer to your owner's manual.

5. It is recommended that you use stove and chimney thermometers to help monitor your stove's operation efficiency.

Next: Proper Wood Stove Installation