Wood Stoves and House Fires

In a long-term emergency, we would have to adapt to several old technologies all of which would made a house fire more likely.  The use of kerosene, wood stoves, charcoal, and other open flame devices create problems that we are not used too.

The incorrect installation of a wood stove is a common cause of fires.  One of the problems is that people do not understand pyrophoric action or the chemical decomposition of wood due to the continuous or intermittent application of heat.  The normal ignition temperature of wood falls in the area of 400 degrees.  After being exposed to a lower heat from outside sources for a prolonged period of time the ignition temperature of the wood lowers.  Some studies indicate it can drop to as low as 77C or 171F.

While admittedly this can take some months to years depending on the temperature, why take the risk.  It is easy to avoid.  Install your stove in compliance with your local fire codes and the manufactures specifications.  It you are improvising and using a homemade or older stove for which you have no information, error on the side of safety.  Use only noncombustible’s close to the stove.  Maintain a good air space between the stove and combustible materials.  Don’t forget about wood floors.

Check your chimneys and flues on a regular basis.  Buy a chimney sweeps brush and learn how to use it.  Remember if you see wood starting to discolor you are too close.  Don’t forget metal and other non-combustibles will still transfer heat, think air spaces or enough bulk of non-combustible to dissipate the heat.  For instance, set the stove on several inches of bricks or even a box filled with sand.

Michigan State University has a good site with the correct clearances at http://bit.ly/35ZpzD.  If you have a wood stove or are planning to install one I recommend you review there site.

I will cover other potential fire causes in the near future.

Howard

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4 Responses to Wood Stoves and House Fires

  1. SLHaynes says:

    We should all take serious heed of this wise and thoughtful article. Go to the Michigan State University website stated in the article and read that too. Save it to your hard drive and bookmark it as well. Fire is nothing to fool around with are take casually.

  2. Good point, Howard. We put in a pot belly stove a few years ago and it works great. We heat one end of our home with it during the winter months.

    We hired a brick-layer to install masonry around the stove so that we could avoid the exact pitfalls that you’ve mentioned.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Joe

  3. caryn verell says:

    never build a fire that is too big or too hot….if your fireplace or woodstove is your only source of heat be sure to close off all rooms that are not being used. and if you have a ceiling fan in the same room as the fireplace/woodstove turn it on low/medium speed-it is great for recirculating the warm air in the room/rooms you are trying to warm up.

  4. caryn verell says:

    i also forgot in the above reply to mention something else: have a small fire extingusher nearby and also have a battery operated fire/smke alarm installed nearby. even good screens and big hearths the chances of sparks flying are good when poking and stirring the ashes ..and you can actually burn a fire in a fireplace for a good thirty minutes before you realize that the chimney flu has not been opened…and by then, you are gonna have alot of smoke…a smoke alarm will pick up on this within a few minutes.

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