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Home Safety With Wood Heating

CAUSES OF HOME FIRES:

INSUFFICIENT CLEARANCE- Wood or other flammable materials that are repeatedly over-heated become charred. This charred wood can ignite at a temperature as low as 250o F. Charring occurs where there has been insufficient stove or chimney clearance. Large nails or screws fastening a heat shield to the wall can transfer heat to the wood beneath, resulting in charring and a fire. Leaving flammable materials too close to a stove, such as drying clothing, also have resulted in home fires.

CREOSOTE BUILD-UP - Creosote results from incomplete burning, as indicated by a "smoky" fire. This is a tar-like substance that coats the walls of a stove or chimney and can readily ignite, causing a "flue fire." This is a rapidly spreading fire running up the chimney, often coming out the top as a shower of sparks and flame. Internal temperatures can easily reach 2000o F, resulting in rapid heat penetration of supporting walls and attic. Charring and ignition can result in hidden spaces of the ceiling, attic or roof. In brick and mortar chimneys, the mortar will crack and fall out. Cracks can extended out into the attic allowing flame to ignite wood supports. In metal flues that are not properly screwed together, vibrations can cause the pipes to separate allowing fire into the house. Flaming creosote chunks can be carried by the draft out of the chimney and ignite the roof. Any flue fire is serious and all spaces and the roof should be immediately checked for any possible fire. The local fire department should always be notified.

IMPROPER HANDLING OF ASHES - Cleaning out the stove is an important maintenance requirement but the ashes must be disposed of properly. ALWAYS ASSUME THE ASHES ARE HOT. Always use a metal scoop shovel and a metal bucket. Never use a cardboard box nor store near the house or other flammable material. Use a metal ash can and stir the ashes to ensure that they are out. Remember, ashes are self-insulating and can retain heat for several days. It is illegal to dump hot ashes at any landfill or transfer station.

Next: How to Prevent Home Fires