More to woodstove maintenance than scooping ashes | SierraSun.com

More to woodstove maintenance than scooping ashes

Staff reportsChimneys should be cleaned at least once a year, and some chimneys may need to be cleaned more frequently.As the by-products of combustion travel up the chimney, they cool down and adhere to the chimney walls. The layers build up creating creosote which is flammable. Using paper to start a fire, or burning trash or wrapping paper in a chimney can cause hot embers to travel into the chimney where they will ignite the creosote.The chimney then becomes one giant blowtorch. Temperatures inside the flue will be great enough to warp the metal liner or crack the masonry. Hot ashes, embers, and flames will shoot out of the top of the flue landing on the roof, trees, or pine needles and may ignite them. The fractures created in the flue can allow hot embers or flames to escape inside the house and start a structure fire. Disposing of the ashes from your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue can create their own problems. Trucks transporting waste to the transfer station have had their loads catch on fire from hot ashes placed in a trash container. Hot ashes can smolder for days and have been known to ignite the debris in the trucks as well as the debris at their destination, the Transfer Station. This has caused significant damage to vehicles and property as well as endangering the employees of the Transfer Station and the Firefighters responding to the fires. Live embers can survive for days when covered with ashes. Even though the fire appears to be out, it can still be alive. When you clean out your wood stove or fireplace, place the ashes in a metal can with a tight fitting lid. The lid does not have to be air tight, just tight enough so the ashes won’t spill if the can is overturned accidentally. Place the can on a non-combustible surface and wait at least three days before emptying it. Never place your ashes in a cardboard box or paper or plastic bag. Never place them in your trashcan until they have had three to five days to cool off.After taking precautions with wood burning appliances and their ashes, one of the simplest things people can do to protect themselves and their families is to make sure they have working smoke detectors in their homes. Be sure to test detectors at least once a month and replace them if they are more than 10 years old. If they are battery operated or have a battery backup, replace the batteries every fall when you set your clocks back. If your smoke detector is hard to reach, install a lithium battery in it. Lithium batteries will last 10 years.”We are all responsible for fire safety in our homes,” said Gene Welch, Truckee Fire Protection District information officer. “Learn all you can about fire safety and put what you learn into practice.”Call Welch with any questions at 582-7635, or look for fire safety tips at http://www.truckeefire.org.