With the onset of cooler weather, local fire officials are prompting home-owners who use wood for heating to be careful. In particular, chimneys used for wood burning appliances need to be cleaned annually and inspected regularly throughout the heating season.
“We frequently see a rise in wood-burning appliance fires in the early fall and while some of these are caused by improper installation, a greater number can be attributed to a lack of a simple cleaning of the chimney,” says Fire Chief Larry Brassard. “Many people in our community use wood heat as their primary source of heat in the winter. It’s absolutely critical that the whole system – especially the chimney – be kept clean,” he added. A qualified chimney sweep with a “WETT” certification is recommended by the department.
Inspecting the chimney frequently and keeping it clean throughout the heating season is critical to the safe use of wood as a heating source. Burning a “hot” fire also helps reduce the build-up of flammable debris such as creosote inside the chimney. “All fires produce hot gases, but cooler chimney stack temperatures tend to produce more creosote and the risk of fires is greater when this debris is allowed to build-up.”
Aside from regular cleaning, the department recommends the burning of hard woods where possible and a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home is a must. It’s not only common sense, it’s the law in Ontario.
The department also offers the following safety tips related to cooler weather heating:
- Never keep combustible materials such as blankets/clothing close to a wood burning appliance or space heater
- Make sure you respect all manufacturer’s instructions – especially clearances from wood surfaces when installing/using a wood stove
- Place firebox embers – even those that feel cool – in a metal container outside, well away from any buildings or vehicles
- Have a dry chemical fire extinguisher handy and know how to use it
- Make sure your smoke alarms are less than 10 years old and have fresh batteries
- Have and practice a home escape plan
- In the event of an accidental fire, get out, stay out and call 9-1-1 promptly
- Keep your driveway and access routes clear of snow to allow access by emergency vehicles at all times