Burning wood safely

Regular maintenance of your fireplace and chimney is necessary for proper operation and to ensure there are no potential fire hazards. Screens should be used in front of open fireplaces, to keep sparks away from combustible materials.

Fireplaces should be inspected annually to verify firebox integrity. Masonry fireplaces should not have cracks in the mortar or brick. The combustor needs to be in good working order in catalytic wood stoves and baffles should be inspected on non-catalytic stoves.

If you are not sure what should be inspected, contact a professional. If you have someone clean your chimney, they are often trained to inspect the stove or fireplace as well.

One of the biggest safety concerns with wood burning is chimney fires. This occurs when exhaust gases cool and condense on chimney walls, creating creosote which is highly flammable. Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned annually. Prevent creosote build-up by using seasoned wood, having hot fires instead of long slow burning ones, or employ low smoke producing systems. Proper chimney caps should be in place to arrest sparks, and to keep your friendly neighborhood wildlife from visiting.

For more information on firewood, visit the University of Illinois Extension website Firewood in Illinois.

Source: Duane Friend,
U of I Extension