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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Used safely, fuel-burning appliances make it easy to chase away the chill

stoveFuel-burning appliances such as fireplaces and wood stoves are popular and reliable ways to chase away winter’s chill. However, operating these types of appliances, especially this time of year, does come with some risks.

“Fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-burning appliances can represent fire hazards, but taking a few easy precautions can cut your risk,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

Consider that National Fire Protection Association statistics show 49 percent of all home heating home fires occur in December, January and February. As a basic safety measure, Peek recommends keeping fuel-burning appliances in good working order.

“Fuel-burning appliances should be inspected and cleaned every fall by a professional,” she said.

While using the appliance throughout the cold season, carefully inspect wood stoves for cracks or bulges before each use. Check the legs, hinges and door seals, and clean out the stove, as well.

“Take a look outside. Chimneys should be free of obstructions and cracks,” Peek said.

Burning the right type of fuel also will cut the risk of a fire sparking up. In wood burning stoves use only dry, seasoned hardwood. Pellet stoves use dry, seasoned wood pellets.

“As tempting as a large roaring fire might be on an especially cold evening, build small fires that burn completely and generate less smoke,” Peek said.

Start by placing logs at the back of the fireplace or on a supporting grate. Do not overload the fireplace. Make sure the damper is open before lighting the fire and leave it open until the ashes have cooled. This allows gases to escape.

Avoid burning cardboard, trash or other debris in the fireplace or wood stove. Do not use flammable liquids to light or relight the fire.

When fireplaces and wood stoves are in use, children and pets, as well as decorations, curtains and other flammable materials should be kept at least 3 feet away.

Fireplace screens should cover the entire width of the fireplace and be sturdy enough to block any logs that begin to roll.

“No fire should be left unattended,” Peek said. “Before you leave the house or go to bed, douse the flames and ashes with water.”

After the ashes are cooled completely, put them in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid and store the container at least 10 feet away from the house or other buildings.

Finally, install smoke detectors and CO alarms on every level of your house. All fireplaces and wood stoves can generate both smoke and carbon monoxide.

“Working smoke detectors and CO alarms will significantly increase your family’s chances of surviving a fire. Test them regularly and change the batteries at least once a year,” Peek said. “Also, take the time to create a family escape plan and practice it regularly so everyone knows what to do and where to go in case of a fire or other emergency.”


Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
158 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078