Wood stove safety: what you should know

As soon as fire investigators could enter the scene of the tragic fire in Richland Sunday, they focused much of their attention on the two wood burning stoves. They served as the sole sources of heat to the century old home. If the stoves did contribute to the fire, it wouldn't surprise Chris Dempster. He's constantly warning customers at Plank Road Fireplace and Stove, that these devices must be properly installed and maintained. "You have to keep them clean, you have to sweep the chimney regularly." he said.

Dempster says in just the past ten years, the technology that goes into design and manufacture of modern wood burning stoves has made them much safer, efficient and far less polluting. He says that's because they must comply with strict federal, state and even local standards. But he says all too often people will buy or inherit an older stove and then try to install it themselves hoping to save money. "That $200 wood stove you get from the paper requires a thousand dollar class "A" chimney system to safely exit the exhaust from the house."

Dempster says if you have a stove or fireplace and are unsure its safe, or if you're thinking of buying one, don't do it yourself. "I encourage them to consider a professional installation." he said, "I encourage them to come in and receive at least an over-the-counter education."

Dempster says the two most common causes of fires involving wood stoves are creosote buildup in the chimney or someone carelessly placing combustibles too close to the stove.

According to the Hearth Patio and Barbeque Association, about one half of all the households in the U.S., or 55 million homes, have fireplaces or free standing stoves.