Is Your Wood or Pellet Stove a Safety Hazard?
Important Information About Fireplace Safety
Every year, especially when the snow begins and the temperatures drop, there is always an uptick in house fires. This not surprising, since many homes use a fireplace or wood stove as their primary source of heat, and what comes out of those fireplaces when the fire dies down? That’s right. Ashes.
Unfortunately for some, ashes can be deceiving. What looks like cold, harmless ash can oftentimes still hold enough heat to ignite dry grass, leaves, or even a plastic garbage bag or bin. In fact, the coals hidden among the ashes can stay hot enough to start another fire for DAYS after the fire you curled up in front of has gone out. And while the exact length of time for them to cool down depends on several factors (how hot was the fire, what type of wood was burning, etc.), it’s always better to play it safe when it comes to ash disposal.
The National Fire Protection Association says
10,000 home fires per year are started by
improperly disposed-of fireplace ash.
- Whenever possible, allow ashes and coals to cool for several days. Your fireplace or wood stove is designed to contain their heat while they are burning, so it will do so while they are cooling as well.
- When you do remove the ashes, never put them in a combustible plastic trash container as it can easily ignite. If you have to remove the ashes from the fireplace before they are completely cool, put them (with any remaining hot embers) in a metal container and thoroughly wet them down once you have moved the bucket outside, well away from anything that is combustible (such as your house and garage). If you hear steam or sizzling, ash is still hot and needs more water!
- If you have to dispose of your ashes with your weekly garbage pickup, only do so once they are completely cool. And wait until after you’ve put your trash container out on the street for pickup.
These few precautions can go a long way towards preventing dangerous situations from occurring unexpectedly.
In addition, make sure your fireplace screens are in good working order and the area around the fireplace is clear of things that could catch if a spark landed on them. A good rule of thumb is that a three-foot buffer around the fireplace is generally pretty safe.
When you’re using a wood or pellet-burning stove or fireplace, it’s always a good idea to have your stove and chimney inspected annually, and cleaned by a professional when needed. Our service team is happy to assist with these critical, but often overlooked tasks.
Call us to book a service now but remember in the future that scheduling this during the “off-season” will prevent having to scramble to find someone who can take care of you quickly when temperatures are dropping outside.
Finally, as we all know, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher should always be on hand as your first warning and first line of defense. Fire departments suggest you change the batteries every time you change your clocks.
So light your fireplace or pellet stove, cuddle up, and enjoy the warmth.