January 7, 2004

With the onset of cold weather, a warm fire can be very inviting but failure to follow safety precautions can turn this cozy setting into a danger.

"Be sure to use fireplaces and wood-burning stoves for their intended purposes and don't burn inappropriate fuels or igniter substances," said Larry Piercy, Extension safety and health specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Burn the proper fuel for wood- and coal-burning stoves, he said. Don't use coal in a wood-burning stove. Also avoid using charcoal or other fuels not intended for a stove.

Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene or gasoline to start a fire in a fireplace or stove because these liquids could explode and cause a serious injury, Piercy said. Don't use wood that has been treated with preservatives because it can release dangerous chemicals.

Another important safety point is to install a wood- or coal-burning stove according to the manufacturer's instructions, Piercy said. Keep the stove at least 36 inches from combustible materials such as walls, furniture, and drapes.

"Don't use a fireplace or wood-burning stove as an incinerator," he said. "Avoid burning evergreens or wreaths because the flames can flare out of control and send smoke and flying sparks into the room. Wrapping paper might contain metallic materials that can be toxic if burned. It also can ignite suddenly, causing a flash fire.”

Other safety tips include checking the flue several times during the winter to ensure there is no creosote buildup that can cause a fire; making sure fireplaces are out before going to bed; using a tight-fitting screen on a freestanding fire place; and keeping flammable objects away from the fire.

It is also important to caution children about standing too close to a fire, and to tell them that stoves and other items can be hot.

Common fire safety tips also include installing smoke alarms outside each sleeping area and on each floor. Vacuum cobwebs and dust away from each alarm and replace batteries at least once a year, or use lithium batteries that last up to six years.

Have at least one fire extinguisher in the home. Be sure everyone knows how to use it.

Plan escape routes in case of a fire. Family members should know at least two ways to escape from every room in the home. Conduct a fire drill at least twice a year with everyone in your household. Set a location outside for everyone to meet after leaving the home.

Following the proper safety precautions can mean enjoying a warm, cozy winter thanks to a fireplace or stove.



Editor: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Larry Piercy 859-257-3000 ext. 107