The smell and sound of a wood fire, the warmth that it emits, and possibly some savings for your wallet as well—no wonder so many of us enjoy heating our homes with wood stoves. Used properly, wood stoves can be an effective way to heat your place. But wood stoves also carry some risks if you don’t understand what you need to do to use one safely.
Fires in the U.S. that occur because of wood-burning stoves and related appliances cause around 2,500 injuries and 280 deaths each year. Home heating systems in general are the second most common reason for all winter house fires (cooking is the first). We can tell you about three recent house fires caused by wood stoves:
- 2016: A house fire near the Frederick-Carroll county border in Maryland did $200K worth of damage. Fortunately, everyone got out safely. A malfunctioning wood stove was the cause.
- 2016: A house fire in Mahanoy Township, Pennsylvania, resulted in no injuries, with smoke detectors getting the credit for saving lives. A malfunctioning wood stove was the cause.
- 2016: A house fire in Marshfield, Massachusetts left the home uninhabitable. There were no injuries, because of working smoke detectors. A faulty wood stove chimney was the reason for the fire.
Tips on How to Use a Wood Stove Safely
We have some important suggestions for you from the Annapolis, MD, Fire Chief David L. Stokes, who noted that his firefighters respond to approximately 15 to 20 chimney fires every winter. “Failing to properly maintain your wood burning fireplace or wood stove poses a hazard to your family which is real and most always preventable,” said Chief Stokes.
More than one-third of homes in the U.S. use wood stoves and other fueled appliances as the primary source for their home’s heat. But the risks can be high when using wood for fuel. Creosote buildup in stovepipes can cause fires, so your wood stove needs to be cleaned and maintained regularly in order to function safely and effectively.
Ready to enjoy your wood stove while protecting your family from a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning? Check out these suggestions:
- Have your wood stove professionally installed. Some insurance companies refuse to pay for fire damage caused by stoves that were not.
- Clearance between the wood stove and walls is critical to preventing fires. A minimum of 36 inches is needed. Fire-resistant materials are also required to keep even noncombustible substances from bursting into flame.
- Ensure that the stove is properly vented. Carbon monoxide kills entire families every winter.
- All stove vent pipes should be three feet or more above the roof.
- Once your stove is installed, use a certified specialist to inspect and clean your wood stove every year.
- Keep the area around the stove clear of flammable items.
- Make sure the air inlets on the stove remain open.
- Consider installing stovepipe thermometers, used to monitor the flue’s temperature.
- NEVER use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Use only seasoned hardwoods. They will produce less creosote buildup.
- Do not burn trash or other debris in your stove.
- Always allow ashes to cool before putting them into a metal container with a tight cover. The container should be kept at least 10 feet from any building, especially your home. Use water to saturate the ashes.
- Make sure your roof is clear of flammable debris such as leaves and pine needles.
- Cut off any tree branches hanging near the stove’s flue or your chimney.
- Use a wire mesh screen to cover the chimney’s top, preventing flaming bits from shooting out of the top of the chimney.
- Stack firewood 30 feet or more away from your home.
- Keep up with recalls. Wood stoves, like any other product, can be recalled by the CPSC for safety flaws. There is currently a recall on Hearth & Home Technologies Quadra Fire® Explorer III wood stoves. Call Hearth & Home Technologies from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time weekdays at 1-800-883-6690.
Finally, make sure your home has both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are in good working order. In two of the fires mentioned above, people and pets got out of the house without injuries because they had working smoke detectors. Also, when it comes to carbon monoxide, note that the colorless, odorless gas is particularly toxic to seniors and children. Wood fires create carbon monoxide that can kill if the stove is not properly vented.
How Can “The Injury Lawyer” Help You?
Steven Heisler has been practicing law in Maryland since 1988. In 1996, however, he decided to focus exclusively on personal injury law. Why? Steve has a heart for helping people. He determined that his education and experience could best be put to use advocating for the rights of folks who were harmed through the negligent actions of others.
If you or a family member has suffered a personal injury due to a wood stove or other product you believe is defective, Baltimore personal injury attorney Steve Heisler stands ready to help you. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have incurred a personal injury, you should not delay. Contact the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler of Baltimore, Maryland, today for a free initial consultation by calling (410) 625-4878 or by using our online contact form.