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Fire Safety Concerns

Although our weather has been relatively warm, we are seeing some colder nights resulting in the use of fireplaces and wood stove heat. Hopefully, every homeowner has taken the time to prepare their chimney and get plenty of wood on hand before lighting the first match.

In the past, houses have burned because of soot collecting around the top of the chimney catching fire. That soot then rolls off onto the roof catching it on fire. Therefore, it is extremely important that you inspect and clean the chimney and stove or fireplace prior to starting a fire. There are a lot of products on the market to help clean your chimney. However, there are no good substitutes for properly cleaning the chimney with the correct sized brush and thorough inspection for cracks or other problems. Besides having this done prior to starting a fire, you will also want to clean your chimney after you burn any “green” wet wood. Therefore, it is best to avoid these types of wood (this would include pine).

If you haven’t had a chance to cut enough wood for the upcoming winter or are realizing you are going through your wood faster than you anticipated, you have a few options available to help relieve your stress. The first option would be to find some downed trees. One tree to look for is Ash, since it is a heavy wood that burns good and has low moisture content. If you would like to burn trees that are known to have a good fragrance, then try to cut down apple, black cherry, bitternut hickory, shagbark hickory, osage-orange, and eastern redcedar trees. If you do not want to search for fallen trees or harvest standing trees, another option may be to purchase firewood. 

Purchasing firewood can be a confusing task if you do not know the terminology. A cord is a volume measurement of 4’x4’x8’ or 128 cubic feet wood, bark, and air space. A rick differs as it is a “face cord” or stack that is 4’ high and 8’ long. However, the length of the firewood may vary and would not sum to 4’ like in a cord. Purdue Extension publication FNR-79 titled “Wood for Home Heating,” provides information on a variety of wood species and their weight per cubic foot.  A copy of this publication can be obtained from your local Extension Office or by going here.

Due to the poisonous nature of preservations, treated wood should never be used in a fireplace. There is value in wood ash because native Indiana woods often have 50% to 70% calcium or lime which can be used as a fertilizer. If using a fireplace, keep the fire screen in place to prevent unwanted fires.

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