Fireplace and Woodstove safety

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Woodstove Safety Example

In Oregon there are an average of 600 woodstove and home heating fires causing $18,000,000 in damages each year. With a little planning and maintenance, you can help keep from becoming a part of that statistic.

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Here are some simple tips for keeping your home safe:

  • If you have a flue fire or overheated stove: CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY, close the draft controls to the stove and go outside and wait for the fire department to arrive! Always have your stove and chimney inspected and repaired after a flue fire to ensure it is safe to use again!

  • Have a Certified Chimney Sweep clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks, damaged pipes and obstructions at least once a year for occasional users, twice a year if you use your woodstove as your primary source of heat. Only physical cleaning can remove creosote buildup. Wood stove cleaning logs are effective to help prevent creosote buildup but not in removing creosote already on the flue lining. 

  • Replace any damaged or worn parts; be sure that all stovepipe sections are tightly secured together 

  • Be sure your chimney cap has an approved spark screen to prevent escaping sparks from igniting your roof and keep tree branches trimmed at least 10 feet from chimney.

  • To prevent flue fires burn dry and well-seasoned wood. Burn small, hot fires. 

  • Woodstoves and fireplaces need fresh air to properly operate, be sure that there is a source of fresh air close to it.

  • Always use a fireplace screen made of sturdy metal or heat-tempered glass to prevent sparks from escaping. If children are present, use a special child-guard screen as a barrier for your woodstove. 

  • Keep furniture, firewood and other combustibles at least 3 feet from your woodstove or fireplace.

  • Never use flammable liquids to start your woodstove or fireplace!

  • Place ashes in a metal container with a tight cover and place outside 3 feet away from combustible materials such as decks, porches, woodpiles and out- buildings. Ashes can keep hot for several days after disposal; ensure the ash is cold to the touch before disposing of them further. Improperly disposed of ashes is a leading cause of deck fires in the winter time.

  • Install a Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarm in your home if wood, oil, or gas is used to fuel your heating appliance. All homes should have at least one working smoke alarm as well. 

  • All new woodstoves need to be permitted by the building department before installation. This is to ensure proper clearances, allowable stove and correct installation. Contact your local building department for more details on their permit process. City of Bend Building Department 541-388-5528. Deschutes County Building Department 541-388-6575.

  • Oregon DEQ handles any complaints about odor or burning of trash, plastics, etc in woodstoves. Their local office contact is 541-388-6146.
(Information provided in part courtesy of the City of Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department© 2013)