Chimney and woodstove safety

Tips on heating safely with wood and other solid fuels.

In 2016, there were 565 fire incidents involving chimneys, fireplaces, and woodstoves throughout the Commonwealth. These fires were responsible for three civilian injuries, five firefighter injuries, and resulted in $2.3 million in property losses.

Tips for safe use of wood, coal, and pellet stoves

  • You need a building permit before installing fireplaces, wood, pellet or coal burning stoves. The local building inspector  must inspect new fireplaces, wood, pellet or coal burning stoves before they are used as required by the Massachusetts State Building Code.
  • Allow for at least 36 inches of clearance around the appliance to prevent combustibles from coming into contact with a heat source. This is the 3 foot circle of safety.
  • Solid fuel heating appliances cannot share a common flue with chimney flues used by another solid fuel, fossil fuel, or gas fire appliance. 
  • A qualified mason should inspect the chimney and flue before the stove is used and annually. Cracks in the flue or mortar joints can allow flames and heated gases to get into living spaces.
  • Read a brochure in English or Spanish about chimney and woodstove safety for additional tips.

Proper use

  • Most chimney fires occur because of a build-up of creosote, a tarry byproduct of burning wood. Have your chimney flue cleaned before each heating season. Burn only dry, well seasoned, hardwood to reduce creosote accumulation.
  • Don't use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Never leave children unattended near the stove.
  • Check that the damper is open before lighting the fire. A close damper will result in an accumulation of smoke and carbon monoxide in the home. Don't close the damper until the fire is out and the embers are cold.
  • Use a fireplace screen to prevent flying sparks and embers from falling out on to the floor.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to provide protection for your family.
  • To prevent fires, ashes that are cleaned out from the stove or fireplace should be shoveled into a metal bucket with a metal lid and placed outside on the ground away from the building.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to warn of both fire and deadly fumes from a faulty furnace, fireplace, oven flue or other venting problem.

 

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