By Kate Evans
The cool, blustery autumn winds and falling leaves and branches can combine to create a higher risk of wildfires, especially when burning a wood stove to stay warm. With winter weather approaching, area residents are advised to follow these tips to heat their homes safely with wood stove heat and prevent house fires from wildfires:
Check your chimney flue for creosote periodically with a mirror and have your flue cleaned if it’s dirty.
Burn the wood stove with the damper out for 15 minutes daily to burn creosote from the flue.
Don’t burn green or wet wood or use too much paper to start the wood stove.
Use a metal bucket with a tight lid for the safe disposal of wood ashes. Keep wood ashes in the metal bucket for at least two-three days before disposing of them unless putting them directly on snow or ice.
Keep an ABC fire extinguisher close to the wood stove.
Have a carbon monoxide detector in your home if you’re burning wood, oil or coal.
Keep items at least three feet away from the wood stove.
Don’ t burn Christmas or gift wrapping paper in a wood stove or fireplace. It’s extremely flammable and can cause a chimney fire or house fire. It can also release toxic fumes into your home from chemical compounds it contains.
Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris and cause carbon monoxide build-up in your home.
General fire safety
Eliminate clutter from your home.
Don’ t pile up trash on your porch.
Never smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended.
Keep all matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
Never put portable space heaters near flammable materials like drapery.
Keep candles 12 inches away from anything that can burn. Don’ t leave candles burning unattended or where they could be knocked over.
Consider using battery-operated flameless candles that look like real candles.
Smoke detectors, other
Change your fire alarm batteries twice a year at time change. Check them once a month.
Have working smoke detectors on every floor, in sleeping areas and in hallways and entrance ways. Smoke detectors save lives.
Have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home.
Keep fire extinguishers handy in your home and know how to use them.
Be Firewise outdoors
Homeowners should keep an area at least 30 feet wide around every side of their home mowed and free of anything burnable including dry leaves, wood piles, newspaper, trash, debris, brush and other landscaping that can burn.
Trim branches that overhang the home, porch and deck and prune branches of large trees up to six to 10 feet to reduce possible fire spread.
Keep your roof, gutters and yard free of dead leaves, tree branches, twigs, pine needles and other burnable debris.
Remove dead leaves, lumber and other flammable debris from under and around decks. Don’ t store firewood or other items under decks or porches. Firewood piles should be at least 30 feet from any building.
Screen in or mesh the area under decks and porches to prevent debris and combustible material from accumulating there.
Use Firewise plants and mulches for landscaping and avoid using evergreens or ornamental grasses within 30 feet of the home. Less flammable trees and shrubs to plant around your home include flowering dogwood, Eastern redbud, azaleas and hydrangeas.
A person may not engage in open air burning except under the following conditions:
There is a natural or constructed fire break at least 10 feet wide completely around the material to be burned that is free of flammable materials;
Adequate personnel, equipment and water are present to prevent the fire from escaping;
At least one responsible person remains at the location of the fire until the last spark is out;
Burning occurs between the hours of 4 pm. and 12 midnight, except when the ground is covered with snow the burning may occur at any time so long as all other requirements are met.
Anyone wishing to do an open-air controlled burn should first contact the Washington County Health Department at 240-313-3400 to get permission for an open-air burn. They will determine if a permit is required.
Call the Washington County Division of Fire and Emergency Services non-emergency line at 240-313- 2900 prior to and at the end of any open-air controlled burn.
Don’t burn on windy days.
Burn only vegetation, brush and yard debris. Don’t burn paper, trash or any man-made materials.
Never leave your fire unattended.
Your controlled burn fire should be completely extinguished before leaving it.
Burn at a safe distance-at least 200 feet-from your home, sheds, buildings or woodlands.
Call 911 immediately if the fire escapes the burn area.