Prevent home fires with wood stove safety and outdoor Firewise measures

by Kate Evans

The autumn winds and falling leaves and branches can create a higher risk of wildfires, especially in homes burning a wood stove to stay warm.  Area residents are urged to follow these tips to heat their homes safely with wood stove heat and prevent house fires from wildfires.

Good wood stove habits

Check your chimney flue for creosote periodically and clean your flue if it’s dirty.  Clean the flue before you start using it for the season, said South Morgan Volunteer Fire Chief Mark Miller.

Burn the wood stove with the damper out for 15 minutes daily to burn creosote from the flue.

Don’t burn green or wet wood or use too much paper to start the wood stove.

Use a metal bucket with a tight lid for the safe disposal of wood ashes-not a plastic bucket.

Keep wood ashes in the metal bucket for around two weeks before disposing of them in the woods, Miller said.  Be sure to cover the bucket with a lid or the wind will cause the embers to catch fire, fall out of the bucket and catch everything on fire.

Putting wood ashes directly on snow or ice is safer, but be very cautious that the embers are cold.

Keep an ABC fire extinguisher in close access to the wood stove.

Have a carbon monoxide detector in your home if you’re burning wood, oil or coal.

Keep items at least three feet away from the wood stove.

Don’t burn Christmas or gift wrapping paper in a wood stove or fireplace. It’s extremely flammable and can cause a chimney fire or house fire.  It can also release toxic fumes into your home from chemical compounds it contains.

Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year.  Chimneys can be blocked by debris and cause carbon monoxide build-up in your home.

General fire safety

Eliminate clutter from your home.

Don’t pile up trash on your porch.

Never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended.

Keep all matches and lighters out of the reach of children.

Never put portable space heaters near flammable materials like drapery.

Burning candles

Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Company Assistant Chief Jason Whisner said that people shouldn’t leave candles burning unattended or leave home with a candle still burning inside.

Whisner also said don’t leave a burning candle by an open window.  One gust of wind can knock the burning candle into a trash can full of papers and blow the curtains into the flames.  A house fire from a burning candle can happen quickly, he noted.

Keep candles 12 inches away from anything that can burn.

Don’t leave candles burning where they could be knocked over by a child or pet.

Consider using battery-operated lanterns or battery-operated flameless candles instead.

Smoke detectors & extinguishers

Change your fire alarm batteries twice a year at time change. Check them once a month.

Have working smoke detectors on every floor, in sleeping areas and in hallways and entrance ways.  Smoke detectors save lives.

Have a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home.

Keep fire extinguishers handy in your home and know how to use them.

Be Firewise outdoors

Homeowners should keep an area at least 30 feet wide around every side of their home mowed and free of anything burnable including dry leaves, wood piles,   trash, debris, brush and other landscaping that can burn.

Trim branches that overhang the home, porch and deck.  Prune branches of large trees up to six to 10 feet to reduce possible fire spread.

Keep your roof, gutters and yard free of dead leaves, tree branches, twigs, pine needles and other burnable debris.

Remove dead leaves, lumber and other flammable debris from under and around decks.

Don’t store firewood or other items under decks or porches. Firewood piles should be at least 30 feet from any building.

Screen in the area under decks and porches to prevent debris and combustible material from accumulating there.

Avoid planting evergreens or ornamental grasses within 30 feet of the home. Less flammable trees and shrubs to plant around your home include flowering dogwood, Eastern redbud, azaleas and hydrangeas.

Open burning

Outdoor burning can only take place from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. during forest fire season, which begins October 1 and runs through December 31.  It also runs March 1 through May 31.      Outdoor burn bans may be declared if dry conditions that increase the threat of wildfires persist.

Call Morgan County 911 Dispatch at 304-258-0305 to tell them the location of your outdoor burn before you begin burning.

Don’t burn on windy days.

Have adequate equipment, water and people there to fight the fire if it escapes.

Burn only vegetation, brush and yard debris.  Don’t burn paper, trash or any man-made materials.

A safety strip with a minimum width of 10 feet must surround the materials being burned and be cleared down to the soil, said Fire Chief Mark Miller.

Miller said before last week’s rains that he wouldn’t drop a match anywhere outside since it was so dry.  Once the foliage comes down, it’ll get worse since the trees are so dry, he noted.  Residents should exercise increased caution during dry spells.

Never leave your fire unattended.

Your controlled burn fire should be completely extinguished before leaving it.

Burn at a safe distance-at least 200 feet-from your home, sheds, buildings or woodlands.

Call 911 immediately if the fire escapes the burn area.