Chimney and Wood Stove Safety


Chimney and Wood stove Safety

Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes. Local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment each year in 2014-2018. These fires resulted in annual losses of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.

  • Heating equipment caused one in seven home structure fires (14%) that took place in 2014–2018 and 19% of home fire deaths.
  • The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (25%) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
  • Over half (54%) of the home heating fire deaths were caused by having heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding.
  • A vast majority of home heating fire deaths (81%) involved stationary or portable space heaters.
  • Nearly half (48%) of all home heating fires occurred in January, February, and December.

Source: NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)


chimney worker

Have your chimney inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season and cleaned if necessary. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire if not removed through cleaning. Always protect your home and your family by using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires. Remember to burn only clean, dry, seasoned firewood - never burn paper or pine boughs, which can float out the chimney and ignite your roof or a neighboring home. Do not use flammable liquids to start your fire. If you are purchasing a factory-built fireplace, select one listed by a testing laboratory, and have it installed according to local fire and building codes. Do not use your fireplace if you decorate it with Christmas stockings or other seasonal decorations.

Wood Stoves

Be sure your wood stove bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory and meets local fire codes. Building code information dealing with wood stove installations is available at:

wood stove

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper installation, use and maintenance. Chimney connections and chimney flues should be inspected at the beginning of each heating season and cleaned when necessary. Burn only clean, dry firewood, and be sure the wood stove is placed on an approved non-combustible stove board or hearth to protect the floor from heat and hot coals. Fireplaces and wood burning stoves are auxiliary home heating devices that demand care and attention in their purchase, installation, and maintenance. For someone considering the installation of a wood or coal stove, a fireplace, or a solid-fuel furnace, careful consideration must be given to the safety aspects of the equipment and the installation. Expert advice is often required. Instructions must be followed to the letter.

Following these precautions can reduce the possibility of a fire or injury related to wood stove use.

  • chimney sweep brush
    All wood burning stoves and fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected before the heating season begins.
  • Make sure that the door latch closes properly.
  • Furnaces and water heaters which have flue pipes attached to the chimney of a fireplace or wood burning stove should have tight fitting joints and seams.
  • Never use liquid fuel to start the fire in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
  • Ashes need to be thoroughly dampened, cooled, and stored outside away from the building in metal cans that are used solely for ash storage, not in compost piles, cartons, boxes or anything else that is combustible.
  • It is important to use only thoroughly dried hardwood. This will prevent or slow the buildup of creosote in the chimney which is the cause of many chimney fires.
  • Have the chimney and flue inspected by a qualified mason or chimney sweep prior to use. Cracks in the flue or mortar joints can allow flames and heated gases to extend into the walls or attic of a structure.
  • Use a fireplace screen to prevent flying sparks and embers from falling out onto the floor.
  • Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to provide protection for your family.

Although following these precautions should reduce your risk of a chimney fire, be aware of the signs of a chimney fire and know what to do if you encounter them -- a loud roar, sucking sounds, shaking pipes, hot spots on the wall or chimney, or smoke in the house or apartment. If you hear or see any of these signs, shut off the fire's air supply, get everyone out of the house quickly and call 911 from a cell phone or neighbor's phone