NORMAN — When the weather outside is frightful, there is nothing better than a roaring fire to chase away the chill. To take full advantage of the cozy warmth, follow a few common-sense precautions to cut the risk of a home fire.
Lots of families across Oklahoma rely on fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances to keep warm in the winter. The key is to be safe and smart when using those appliances.
As a basic safety measure, it is important to keep your chimney and wood stove in working order, and that means having them inspected and cleaned every year by a certified professional.
Chimneys should be free of obstructions and cracks, while wood stoves should be examined for cracks. Hinges and door seals should be checked for smooth joints and seams.
Also, since all fireplaces can generate carbon monoxide, be sure to install and use a carbon monoxide alarm.
Burn only seasoned hardwood — soft, moist wood speeds up creosote buildup — and never use flammable liquids. Use only dry, seasoned wood pellets in pellet stoves. Do not burn cardboard, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
The idea is to build small fires that burn completely and generate less smoke. Start by placing logs at the back of the fireplace or on a supporting grate.
Make sure the damper is open before you light the fire. To cut down on the fire hazard, keep the hearth area free of decorations and flammable materials and use only fire-resistant materials on nearby walls around wood stoves. Also, avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing near flames.
The fireplace screen should be heavy enough to block rolling logs and span the whole opening to catch flying sparks and embers.
You can install stovepipe thermometers to check the flue temperatures in your wood stove, and keep the air inlets open to avoid creosote buildup.