MOUNT VERNON — As long as heating bills continue to skyrocket, alternative heat sources will remain popular during the winter. With their increased use, the number of fires resulting from improper use of space heaters and woodburning stoves climbs.
“Each winter, we have more and more structure fires related to heating with wood,” said Joe Porter, Central Ohio Joint Fire District chief. “We are all trying to heat our homes in the most economical way, but we need to keep in mind that homes built in the 1700s and 1800s were designed to be heated by wood. Today’s wood frame structures are not all designed that way.”
Porter said the woodburning stoves and fireplaces in many of today’s more modern homes are not designed to produce whole-house heat.
“As a rule, a home today might be built with a fireplace, but the fireplace is not designed to heat the entire home,” he said. “This type of fireplace is designed to be more ornamental than to heat with. There generally is little or no masonry, only wood surrounding the stack.”
When these stoves are stoked to try and produce fires hot enough to heat an entire home, the wood surrounding the stovepipes can catch fire due to the lack of masonry.
When woodburning stoves are not properly maintained and cleaned regularly by a professional, they also pose a fire danger, Porter said. Experts recommend having the fireplace professionally serviced and the chimney professionally cleaned every year.
“Proper cleaning and maintenance is a must,” said Porter. “If they are not maintained, they will fail.”
Space heaters can pose a significant fire danger in the home as well if they are not used properly. Keeping them a safe distance from bedding and curtains is critical, Porter said, as is making sure they are not located in rooms where there is clutter, or newspapers or magazines lying about.
Because they can quickly start a fire if they are tipped over, space heaters should not be used in an area where children or pets can knock them over, he added.