‘Tis the season to think about fireplace safety | SierraSun.com

‘Tis the season to think about fireplace safety

Jason Kelley/Sierra SunJuan Sarabia and Brett Grandison do the dirty deed of sweeping chimney's on Thursday for Alpine Stove and Chimney Service.

With the evenings getting cooler its about time to start up the fireplaces and woodstoves, but there are some safety issues to consider first.

Last winter’s build up of soot in the chimney, the summers deposits of pine needles on the roof, and the storage of firewood and ashes all need to be considered before starting a fire in the fireplace or in the woodstove.

Local fire departments respond to fires started by wood-burning appliances every year, said Gene Welch, the public safety and information officer for the Truckee Fire Protection District.

“It’s a seasonal issue. We can get several a week,” Welch said. “They start about now and go until the spring.”

Over the summer, pine needles have accumulated on roofs, on decks and around the home and need to be dealt with, Welch said.

He recommended raking needles back at least two to five feet from the sides of the house and deck, and not to allow needles to get more than one to two inches deep for an additional 30 feet around the home.

Another area to check out is the chimney.

“Chimney fires occur by a buildup of incomplete combustion. When that ignites, it turns the chimney into a blow torch, causing failure of the chimney and the fire can extend into the house,” Welch said.

He said that depending on the chimney, it can be a “do it yourself” job with a chimney brush. But some work should be left to professionals.

Craig Morris, owner of Alpine Stove and Chimney Service said that how often a chimney should be cleaned varies from every couple cords (a cord is 128 cubic feet) of wood to up to six cords, depending on the appliance and the wood.

Late summer is a busy time of year for chimney cleaners, and it can take four to eight weeks to get an appointment, Morris said. Spring and early summer are generally better times, he said.

Price will depend on the fireplace or stove, the chimney and the amount of cleaning required.

The storage of wood and ashes is also important in preventing a fire, Welch said. Firewood should be kept at least 30 feet from the home.

Once a fire is out, Welch said ashes should be kept in a metal container with a tight fitting lid for at least three days before disposing of them.

Dousing ashes with water could send steam up and scatter ashes, so the metal container is easier and safer, Welch said.

For more information on fire safety, go to http://www.truckeefire.org.

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