Keeping safe while heating with stoves

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By Sandy Barnes

Whether fueled by wood or gas, a stove in the corner of a room is a welcome source of heat for many mountain residents in the wintertime.

However, heating stoves can create safety hazards if they aren't installed and monitored properly.

Evergreen Fire/Rescue recently responded to a call from a resident who reported that the carbon-monoxide monitor in his home was giving high readings. Investigation showed that a gas heater in the house was emitting dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, which can be lethal in high concentrations. 

Improper venting of stoves can create hazards, as was the case with the gas heater in the home where there were high levels of carbon monoxide.

Burning wood in a stove has another set of potential hazards, including an unhealthy effect on air quality, according to information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Chimney fires also can result from buildup of creosote, a flammable and toxic substance created when wood is burned.

The CDPHE recommends that chimneys be inspected and cleaned annually, and that only well-seasoned wood be used for heat. Burning small, hot fires and adding wood as needed is also advised.

Residents should not burn garbage, colored paper or chemically treated wood in fireplaces and stoves.

Smoke in the house is an indication that the heater is not working safely. Wood smoke contains carbon monoxide and other pollutants that can irritate lungs and eyes and increase cardiovascular problems, according to the CDPHE.

Doug Saba, fire educator for the Evergreen Fire Protection District, said he would like to see as many fire and carbon-monoxide detectors in homes as possible.

“Any detector in the home is better than none,” Saba said when asked about different brands and models. 

To provide adequate protection, the detectors should be within 12 feet of sleeping areas.

Battery-operated detectors require periodic testing to make sure they are working, as do units that plug into wall outlets.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com of call 303-350-1042.