Fireplace and wood stove safety

As the temperature gets cooler outdoors, you need to stay warmer indoors. Often this means cuddling up next to a hot wood stove, fireplace, or even a space heater. While these are cozy ways to stay warm, they can also be dangerous – wood stoves alone account for over 4,000 home fires a year. But fortunately, safe and responsible use of these heat sources can prevent the worst from happening. Use these tips to make sure you can enjoy a warm and safe home during the chilly months.


If your home has a fireplace or wood stove, make sure the chimney and stovepipes are inspected and cleaned regularly. By “regularly,” we mean, at least once a year, before the first fire of the season. If you have frequent fires, chimneys should be inspected and cleaned even more frequently.

Make sure your fireplace has a quality screen, heavy enough to keep logs from rolling out of the fire. The screen should also be big enough to cover the entire fireplace opening, to prevent any sparks or embers from escaping.

If you have a wood stove, make sure the stove is solidly constructed of either heavy cast iron or plate steel. Weld seams and hinges should all be smooth and sturdy. If your stove has cracks or other damage, it should be repaired or replaced before further use.


In wood stoves and fireplaces, always burn dry, seasoned firewood. Don’t use green wood, paper, trash, or other fuels. These materials make for unsafe fuel, since they do not burn as predictably. If you go to bed or leave the house, make sure the fire is completely extinguished. Allow ashes time to cool before cleaning them from the fireplace or stove, and dispose of them in a solid metal container. Douse ashes with water to ensure they aren’t hot. Never dump ashes directly into a trashcan.

If using an electric space heater, be sure the heater has built-in safety mechanisms. Modern space heaters should include a thermostat control mechanism that automatically switches off if the heater is knocked over. Plug a space heater directly into a wall outlet; don’t use a power strip or extension cord. Unplug the heater when not in use. Also, give a space heater 3 feet of space, and use only as directed: they aren’t designed to dry clothes or other wet materials.

Always enjoy wood stoves, fireplaces, and space heaters at a safe distance. Don’t stack anything on or around them, or keep flammable or combustible materials near them.  ESPECIALLY don’t let children play near them. Don’t let kids have access to matches, lighters, or fuel either, and make sure your children understand fire safety.

Your home should have smoke detectors with fresh batteries in every room. You should also have a fire extinguisher in the house. If the worst happens and a fire gets out of control, don’t hesitate to call 911.

Once 911 has been called, contact Rocky Mountain Catastrophe for emergency assistance. We can be on the scene right away to help minimize damage and begin cleanup and restoration. Because getting your life back to normal is what we do.

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