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Annapolis Fire Department Urges Fireplace and Wood Burning Stove Safety

Nov 22, 2016 03:16PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Annapolis, MD (11-22-16) –  Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides and Fire Chief David L. Stokes, Sr. remind residents to be aware of fire dangers now that the temperatures are dropping. Every autumn, as the air begins to chill, Annapolis residents enjoy warming themselves by the fireplace. However, not disposing of fireplace ash correctly and not cleaning the chimney regularly is responsible for thousands of dollars in damages every year and puts lives at risk.

“Each year, Annapolis Firefighters respond to an average of 15 to 20 chimney fires, Chief Stokes said. “Failing to properly maintain your wood burning fireplace or wood stove poses a hazard to your family which is real and most always preventable.”

Stokes urges homeowners to follow the recommendations established by the United States Fire Administration (USFA) regarding home fire safety and fireplaces. Nationally, more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently. The Annapolis Fire Department and the USFA encourage the public to practice the following fire safety steps to keep those home fires safely burning.

Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean
  • Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist
  • Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations, and flammable materials
  • Leave fireplace glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney
  • Close fireplace glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area
  • Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door
  • Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures
  • Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire
  • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves

Safely Burn Fuels

  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire
  • Use only seasoned hardwood
  • Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove
  • When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended
  • Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them
  • Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

Protect the Outside of Your Home
  • Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home
  • Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris
  • Cover the chimney with a mesh screen
  • Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents

Protect the Inside of Your Home
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is toxic to humans in elevated concentration. CO is produced as a natural byproduct of burning fossil fuels. In normal circumstances, the CO leaves your home through the chimney. When your chimney or the stove isn’t working correctly, CO can enter your home and be poisonous to you and your family. CO is especially toxic to children and senior citizens.
  • Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
  • Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof

If you have additional questions about fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove safety, or if you need assistance with a smoke alarm or CO alarm for your home, the Annapolis Fire Department can help you. Please contact us at 410-263-7975 for further assistance.

These tips are provided by the United States Fire Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For additional information, please go to: