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As the cold seasons of fall, winter and even chilly spring come along, many homeowners breathe a sigh of relief as the threat of wildfire diminishes. However, fire risks are present in any season. If you have wood heat in your home, be sure to take note of these important maintenance and use tips to ensure that your family is as safe as possible.

Flue fires in dirty chimneys are not uncommon, and when a flue fire’s flames or embers escape into the attic, walls or ceilings throughout the entire home can become compromised. 

Follow these basic tips to prevent a flue fire:

  • Have your flue cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep. Creosote buildup is extremely flammable, and some is impossible to clean except by a certified chimney sweep.
  • Ensure the installation of a cap with a screen on the top of the flue. This will serve to reduce embers from landing on the roof, and will prevent birds, squirrels and leaves from entering.
  • Because fire can escape through cracks and holes in brick and mortar chimneys, avoid using these unless a “sleeve” or metal pipe is properly installed.
  • Burn only seasoned hardwood that is clean and dry, and avoid evergreen wood that contains pitch, sap or resins.
  • Smoke contributes to creosote buildup. Reduce the presence of buildup by keeping dampers open to promote a clean, hot fire with less smoke. Burn hot, bright fires and use smaller fires in milder weather.
  • Call 911 if you suspect a flue fire. Firefighters will come out and search for flames or embers that may have spread into the attic, walls or ceiling. 

Some additional safety tips regarding using wood heat:

  • Clean the stove often and always dispose of the ashes in a safe, non-flammable location.
  • Ensure that working smoke alarms are installed near the sleeping areas. Keep them far enough away from the stove to prevent false alarms when smoke escapes after the stove door is opened.
  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire in the stove. This can cause severe injury, death and even the loss of homes.

Keeping your home safe and warm during the chilly months is easy if you stay on top of maintenance, prevent safety hazards and always look to professional help when needed.