Time to check wood-burning appliances

News release

With the change in the seasons, the Mammoth Lakes Fire Protection District reminds all users of wood burning appliances to make sure that your heating system is ready to keep you and your family warm this winter.

There are numerous activities that one needs to perform on the system to give you heat and a winter free of problems. The National Fire Protection Association reports that a third of the people using wood type heating have never cleaned or inspected their chimneys or stovepipes, or knew that they needed to.

In addition, there are many who have never used wood as a source of heat or who are looking at ways to reduce their heating bills and have decided to add a wood heating source to cut costs. Many are turning to a wood type heating source and will be assuming that the wood heating system that is located in a rented apartment, condo, or house is ready for use. Now is the time to check all of the components of your heating system and to become familiar with how to use wood as a heating source. If you are not qualified to make this type of evaluation, refer to a specialist before use.

There are several simple steps that one can take to ensure that your system will be safe for use:

First, make sure that the device, be it a woodstove, fireplace, or pellet stove, is sound and in good working order. If you do not possess the skills to make this evaluation, refer to a specialist. Part of this evaluation must include an examination of the flue pipe (this includes pellet stove pipes) that exhausts the products of combustion to the outside air. Make sure that all components are sound, have adequate clearance, are clean of all combustible materials, and operational.

Make sure that you are inserting the proper fuel type for the burning device that you are using. The use of seasoned firewood in a fireplace or woodstove is important to keep the amount of creosote buildup to a minimum. Burning higher quality pellets will also result in less creosote buildup and less ash in a pellet stove. Burning a hot fire will decrease the buildup of creosote while emitting the least amount of the smoke. Also, use dry paper for fire starter and never burn glossy colored paper or pressure treated wood. If using compressed logs, make sure that the manufacturer recommends that this type of fuel can be used in your appliance.

Dispose of the ashes in a proper fashion. Do not place hot ashes outside or in a dumpster. Obtain a metal can for placing hot ashes into and store the ashes inside until completely cold. Remember that a can of ashes can be cold on the surface, but still hot in the center. The quickest way to cool hot ashes is to mix water thoroughly with the ashes in the metal can and let stand for several hours. Then the ashes can be safely placed outside.

Do not store or place anything flammable within 18 inches of a fireplace or wood stove. Code requires that you have a non-combustible surface in front of the stove or fireplace that extends out 18 inches to the front of the unit. Be extra careful with hanging anything above a stove or fireplace.

Check the exterior of the structure to see that the exhaust pipe has 10 feet of clearance around the cap area from any tree limbs and make sure that all needles and dead branches resting on the roof are removed prior to starting your stove or fireplace.

If your unit has a wood burning insert placed inside a zero clearance fireplace box (original fireplace) with factory built metal flue pipes contained in a wooden chase, an evaluation of the concealed clearance to combustible materials needs to be performed. If this situation exists in your unit, per Town Ordinance 13-03, the owner has until October 31, 2022 or upon sale prior to that date, to comply with the conditions of the ordinance. For more information on this item, please contact the Fire Department to schedule an assessment.

If electric heat is being used, vacuum the unit to remove any dust accumulations before startup and ensure that all combustible materials are at least 3 feet from the heating unit at all times.

Remember most home heating fires can be prevented. The winter season results in an increase of structure fire activity and most of these fires are a result of improper heating uses.

If you would like any additional information on these topics or anything else pertaining to your safety, please feel free to contact the Mammoth Lakes Fire Station at any time at 934-2300.


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