Over one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances to heat their homes. While these devices often conjure up images of warmth and comfort, they also represent a significant source (36%) of home heating fires often caused by creosote; a sticky, oily, combustible substance created when wood does not burn completely. This substance rises into the chimney as a liquid and deposits on the chimney walls. If not thoroughly cleaned, this substance will ignite resulting in a chimney fire. Of all home heating fires that occur each year, creosote plays a role in nearly one-fourth (23%) of those fires.
As the weather becomes colder, Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) are teaming up to reduce the risk of these and other home heating fires, especially during the months of December, January and February, when half of all U.S. home fires occur. As part of the fire safety campaign, “Put a Freeze on Winter Fires,” they urge the public to have their chimneys inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified professional. In addition, they recommend:
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove, or any other heating equipment.
- Create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room.
- Never leave a fireplace fire unattended, particularly when children are present.
- Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, and kept at a safe distance from your home.
Winter fires are preventable! For more heating fire safety advice from NFPA and USFA’s “Put a Freeze on Winter” campaign, visit www.nfpa.org/winter.