The Crestone Eagle • November, 2020

Be Firewise—Keep your home & neighborhood safe

by Baca Grande Firewise Committee

Too often, people aren’t concerned with fire safety until it’s too late.

It is that time of year when we start using our wood stoves and fireplaces. They warm our homes and, for many, become a part of our daily routine. But how safe is the installation of your specific wood stove? And how safe are your wood heating habits?

Safety should be the number one consideration when heating your home. Have your home’s heating system checked annually by a qualified professional. Furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and their chimneys should be inspected and cleaned prior to the start of every heating season.

While convenience and cost savings can be tempting, some alternative sources of heating can be potentially dangerous. Portable space heaters and wood burning stoves must be used according to their instructions and with extreme caution. Keep children and pets away from all heating sources, and review the following suggestions for using alternate heat sources wisely.

Fireplaces & woodburning stoves

The floor immediately in front of a fireplace (approximately 3 feet) should not be covered with a rug or carpet.

Allow enough clearance between a wood burning stove and combustible materials such as walls, floor coverings, ceilings, curtains, and furniture. A local home inspector or your city’s planning and zoning department can tell you the code requirements for installing a wood burning stove where you live.

A wood stove must be placed on an approved stove board to protect your floor from heat and hot coals.

Make sure the flue is open before lighting a fire.

Do not close the flue until a fire is completely out.

Use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks that could ignite nearby objects.

Start your fire with clean newspaper or dry kindling.

Never use gasoline or lighter fluid to start a fire.

Burn only dry, seasoned wood; dispose of the cooled ashes in a closed metal container outside your home.

Keep in mind that wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days.

Never leave a fire burning unattended in the fireplace.

Install a spark arrester on your chimney to prevent burning embers from flying up and outside, where the embers could hit a tree or leaves, and start a fire.

Portable space heaters

Allow at least 3 feet between the heating equipment and anything that is flammable.

Never leave a heater on when you are not in the room or when you go to sleep. Do not leave children or pets unattended around any heating source.

Don’t use an extension cord with a portable heater. The current from the heater could melt the cord and cause a fire.

Never accelerate the drying of clothes by placing them on top of a heater. Use a drying rack instead.

Wood heating can be a safe way to heat our homes if safe practices are used. In addition to keeping combustibles away from our stoves and careful disposal of hot ashes, wood stoves and fireplaces need to conscientiously cleaned and maintained.

If there is a buildup of ¼ inch of creosote in your stovepipe, or chimney, it is time to have it cleaned. A chimney fire can turn into a house fire.

Home is supposed to be the place where you feel safest. If your home needs new or replacement smoke alarms or fire extinguishers, don’t wait any longer to purchase them. If you can’t remember the last time you practiced a fire drill with your children or just looked around your home and yard—really looked—to see if it is indeed a fire-safe environment, do it now. Act responsibly, and instruct your children on fire safety prevention measures and the steps to take if a fire occurs.