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From the Fire Marshal’s Office: Fuel Fired Appliance Safety

The winter months are the deadliest time of year for home fires, due to the increased use of alternative heating sources as the temperatures drop.  Home heating is second only to cooking as a cause of home fires.  Fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances are used as primary heat sources in many homes.  Unfortunately, people are unaware of the fire risks of heating with wood and solid fuels.  Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes.  In order to protect your family and property, fuel fired appliances must be properly installed, operated and maintained to function safely and efficiently.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office suggest these safety tips to avoid potential dangers from fires, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and power outages that are associated with heating sources.  Fire safety is a personal responsibility–EVERYONE/EVERYDAY.

Chimneys and wood stove flues should be cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.  Check chimneys for cracks in the mortar or deterioration of the piping.  Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.  Leave glass doors open while burning a fire as this ensures that the fire receives enough air to complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.  Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening getting into the room.  Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open to keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.  Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.  Install a stovepipe thermometer to help monitor flue temperatures.  Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces.  Otherwise, a buildup of creosote, the number one cause of chimney fires, may occur.  Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.

Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.  Weigh down kindling and paper to prevent it from flying out of the chimney or fireplace.  Do not break apart synthetic logs or use more than one at a time.  They may burn unevenly and release higher levels of carbon monoxide.  Only seasoned hardwood should be used as soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.  In pellet stoves, burn dry, seasoned wood pellets.  Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.  Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.  When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.  Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.  Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.  Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them.  Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings.  Never empty the ash directly into a trash can.  Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.  Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.  Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.  Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.  Also, a smoke alarm should be in each sleeping area.  Test them monthly and change the batteries at the beginning and the end of Daylight Savings Time which is November 4, 2018.  Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.  Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.  Plan and practice a home escape plan with your family.

Please follow these simple tips for a safe and warm winter.  For any questions regarding fire safety, please contact The Orange Fire Marshal’s Office at (203) 891-4711, Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM or visit our website at

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