In a power outage or other winter emergency, you may be tempted to heat your house with a fireplace or a rarely used wood appliance. But the use of wet wood, makeshift installations or the continuous use of decorative fireplaces can also increase the risk of starting a house fire.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a wide range of tips for using these wood appliances safely and securely during an emergency, including:
• Make sure you have a battery-operated smoke detector, and test it to be sure it works.
• Check materials around the stove or fireplace and all exposed parts of the chimney, including in the attic, for darkening or other signs of overheating.
• Burn small, bright fires to make the most effective use of fuel, while avoiding the overheating that results from burning large, intense fires.
• Don’t try to heat the whole house. Instead, concentrate your efforts in the room where the heater is and let the rest go cold.
• If you have to use wet wood, use no more than five small sticks of 75 mm in diameter, brush snow and ice off before bringing it inside, mix it with dry wood if you have some, and never load up the stove or fireplace and let it smoulder.
• Shovel ashes into a metal container, take it outside immediately and empty it in the yard away from trees and shrubs. Never store ashes indoors, on the porch or in a wood or cardboard box.
• If you can’t stop a stove from smoking, stop using it, and open a nearby window immediately to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Be careful using decorative fireplaces for long periods of time. Leave the glass doors open for more direct heat, avoid smoke spillage by burning a sheet of newspaper first to preheat the chimney, and build small, bright fires to prevent overheating. Plus, never leave the unit unattended.
• Finally, when in doubt, get professional help from a qualified chimney installer, a chimney sweep, or ask your local fire department for advice.
For more information or a free copy of the “About Your House” fact sheet on Wood Heat Safety in an Emergency or other guides to virtually every facet of owning, maintaining or renovating your home, ask CMHC at 1 800 668-2642 or visit our Web site at www.cmhc.ca. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is Canada’s national housing agency and a source of objective, reliable housing information.
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