Heating with wood was the original way to keep warm. Today, modern, high quality wood stoves give us a comfortable, convenient and economical way to keep our families warm during the winter months.

While wood is regaining popularity as a method for home heating, firefighters see first hand the dangers to health and well being when wood heat is not used properly, putting homes and lives at risk.

First, start by choosing a safe stove. The stove should be made of cast-iron or steel plate. These materials will cost a little more, but they will last longer and there will be less of a danger of the firebox burning through.

The quality of the stove’s construction is also very important. Consumers should be looking for a stove that has airtight door gaskets, sealed joints, a firebox lined with brick to help prevent burn through and a latch that securely locks. It is also important to make sure the stove fits the heating space. If the stove is too small, it will burn hotter, weakening the stove, if it is too large, it will burn cooler, causing creosote to build up.

Creosote is unburnt wood gasses that form a tar-like deposit inside stovepipes and chimneys, and is very dangerous. While all wood stoves cause some creosote deposit, a cold chimney, a slow fire and unseasoned firewood make it worse. To prevent creosote buildup, periodically let the stove burn its hottest for a few minutes, this will burn off deposits in the stovepipes and the flue. To check for buildup inside a chimney, place a mirror under the chimney opening to see if it is clogged. Also, rap on the stovepipe, and if you hear a dull thud instead of a ringing noise, this is a sign of creosote buildup.

Chimneys should also be cleaned twice per year to prevent creosote buildup. Residents can hire a professional or do this themselves by scraping the creosote off the inside of the chimney by running a chain or a burlap sack attached to a long pole up and down the inside of the chimney.

For more information, call the Westbrook Fire Department at 854-0644.

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