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ARTICLES - Wood - Wood Heat Safety in an Emergency

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Canadian wood heat industry have teamed up to prepare this list of important safety tips for people using a wood stove or fireplace for emergency heating during the power interruption.

Webmasters Note: Although some of the information is Canadian-Specific, the following should help anyone who might find themselves in a similar emergency situation.

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1998 Ice Storms in the NE

The ice storms in recent years created a heating emergency because most heating systems need electricity to function. Many householders are using their wood burning stoves and fireplaces to heat their homes during the crisis. A properly installed and operated wood stove or heating fireplace can be a safe and secure way to heat a home. But the use of wet wood, the use of make-shift, temporary wood stove installations, and the continuous use of decorative fireplaces, all increase the risk of a house fire. If possible, get professional help from a qualified installer or chimney sweep. Please take care to keep your family safe until the emergency is over. This message is to assist people in using wood safely as an emergency heating fuel. It covers: how to get the best use of wet wood, some important tips for safe operation, a caution about the use of temporary wood stove installations, a caution about the use of decorative fireplaces, and sources of further information

1. If you must burn WET WOOD, here is how to make the best of a bad situation: split the wood into small pieces about 75 mm (3”) in diameter; small pieces heat up and ignite faster, and burn cleaner brush off snow and chip off ice before bringing wood into the house; try to let it warm up before burning burn small, bright fires, using no more than five sticks at a time

2. Here are some tips for SAFE OPERATION: if you have a battery-operated smoke detector, see that it is working; if you don’t have one, try to get one burn small, bright fires that make best use of the fuel while avoiding dangerous overheating don’t try to heat the whole house; concentrate all your activities in the room where the heater is and let the rest go cold; drain down your water pipes each joint in the flue pipes between a stove and its chimney must be secured with 3 sheet metal screws shovel ashes into a metal container, take it outside immediately and empty it in the yard away from trees and shrubs; never put a bucket full of ashes in the basement or on a wooden porch floor, and never put ashes in a wood or cardboard box if you are using a wood burning furnace, remove the blower compartment door and open the doors leading to the rest of the house; you will find power failure instructions in the owner’s manual keep small children away from the stove or fireplace; don’t leave the unit unattended

3. Beware of TEMPORARY wood stove INSTALLATIONS Make-shift wood stove installations done by untrained people can be very hazardous. a proper masonry or metal chimney is needed; check to see that the inside of the chimney flue is clear and smooth; don’t vent a wood stove out a window using single-wall pipe make sure there is plenty of space around the stove and flue pipe Try to get professional help, even if it is just to get some advice by phone. Qualified people are listed in the yellow pages in categories like wood stoves, fireplaces, chimney sweeps. Here’s how to identify a qualified person: in Quebec, look for an installer licensed by the Association des Professionnels Chauffage (APC) or a chimney sweep accredited by APC in other provinces, look for an installer or sweep certified under the Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) program - In the USA, look for installers certified by the NFI at:
http://www.nficertified.org/

4. Be careful using DECORATIVE FIREPLACES If your fireplace doesn’t make much heat, it is a decorative type and continuous use of it might be hazardous. if the unit has glass doors, it may be best to leave them open so you receive direct radiation from the fire close the damper until the fireplace starts to smoke, then open it until the smoking stops; this will reduce the amount of warm room air drawn up the chimney burn small, bright controlled fires; never overload the unit

Please burn safely. Don’t put your family at risk. And finally, burn your stove or fireplace safely - don’t risk your family to save your water pipes.


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