More than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in
their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.
Heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires
are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular
maintenance to function safely and efficiently.
The U. S. Fire Administration (USFA) encourages you to practice the following fire safety steps to
keep those home fires safely burning. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility…
Fire Stops With You!
Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean
• Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
• Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
• Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
• Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
• Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote
buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
• Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.
Safely Burn Fuels
• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.
• Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
• Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
• When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
• Soak hot ashes in water and place them in a metal container outside your home.
Protect the Outside of Your Home
• Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
• Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
• Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
• Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
• Protect the Inside of Your Home
• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.
• Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
• Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.
FIREPLACE AND WOOD STOVE SAFETY
Summertime should be a time for fun and making happy memories. Knowing a few fire safety tips and following
instructions will help everyone have a safe summer.
Facts and Figures
• Every year Americans look forward to summer vacations, camping, family reunions, picnics, and the Fourth of July.
Summertime, however, also brings fires and injuries due to fireworks and outdoor grills. Annually more than 8,000
Americans are injured by fireworks and grill fires. More than half these injuries occur during the first week of July.
• USFA's National Fire Data Center estimates that yearly outside cooking grills cause more than 6,000 fires, over 5
fatalities, more than 170 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Gas grills alone cause over 2,700 fires, 80 injuries,
and $11 million dollars damage. Most of the gas grill fires and explosions were caused by gas leaks, blocked tubes, and
overfilled propane tanks.
• In addition to outdoor cooking, improper use of fireworks causes more than 6,000 fires and more than $8 million in
• The best way to enjoy fireworks is to visit public fireworks displays put on by professionals who know how to safely
• If you plan to use fireworks, make sure they are legal in your area.
• Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass.
• Always have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby. Know how to operate the fire extinguisher properly.
• Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
• Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a device does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it. Put it out
with water and dispose of it.
• Always read the directions and warning labels on fireworks. If a device is not marked with the contents, direction
and a warning label, do not light it.
• Supervise children around fireworks at all times.
• Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the venturi tubes -
where the air and gas mix - are not blocked.
• Do not overfill the propane tank.
• Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
• Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flame can flashback up into the
container and explode.
• Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an
adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
• Dispose of hot coals properly - douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never
place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
• Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas - carbon monoxide could be produced.
• Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 or your local
emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.
• Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
• Keep campfires small, and don't let them get out of hand.
• Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you're done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
• Never leave campfires unattended.
|Fire Company Prevention Suggestions
Facts & Figures
• Only one-fifth to one-fourth of households (23%) have actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan to
ensure they could escape quickly and safely.
• In 2004, there were an estimated 395,500 reported home structure fires and 3,190 associated civilian deaths in the
• One-third of American households who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in
their home would become life-threatening. The time available is often less. And only 8% said their first thought on hearing
a smoke alarm would be to get out!
Source: Harris Interactive Survey, Fall 2004, conducted for NFPA (PDF, 759 KB), and NFPA’s Fire Loss in the United
States During 2004 - Abridged report (PDF, 89 KB).
Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.
• Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits
and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out
of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. For easy planning, use the
NFPA's escape planning grid (www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/FPWgrid03.pdf) . This is a great way to get children involved
in fire safety in a non-threatening way.
• Make sure that you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home.
• Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan. When you walk through your plan, check to make sure
the escape routes are clear and doors and windows can be opened easily.
• Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbor's house, a light post, mailbox, or stop sign) a safe distance in front
of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your
• Go outside to see if your street number is clearly visible from the road. If not, paint it on the curb or install house
numbers to ensure that responding emergency personnel can find your home.
• Have everyone memorize the emergency phone number of the fire department. That way any member of the
household can call from a neighbor's home or a cellular phone once safely outside.
• If there are infants, older adults or family members with mobility limitations make sure that someone is assigned to
assist them in the fire drill and in the event of an emergency. Assign a backup person too, in case the designee is not
home during the emergency.
• If windows or doors in your home have security bars, make sure that the bars have quick-release mechanisms
inside so that they can be opened immediately in an emergency. Quick-release mechanisms won't compromise your
security - but they will increase your chances of safely escaping a home fire.
• Tell guests or visitors to your home about your family's fire escape plan. When staying overnight at other people's
homes, ask about their escape plan. If they don't have a plan in place, offer to help them make one. This is especially
important when children are permitted to attend "sleepovers" at friends' homes.
• Be fully prepared for a real fire: when a smoke alarm sounds, get out immediately. Residents of high-rise and
apartment buildings may be safer "defending in place."
• Once you're out, stay out! Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. If someone is
missing, inform the fire department dispatcher when you call. Firefighters have the skills and equipment to perform
Putting your plan to the test
• Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible.
• Allow children to master fire escape planning and practice before holding a fire drill at night when they are sleeping.
The objective is to practice, not to frighten, so telling children there will be a drill before they go to bed can be as effective
as a surprise drill.
• It's important to determine during the drill whether children and others can readily waken to the sound of the smoke
alarm. If they fail to awaken, make sure that someone is assigned to wake them up as part of the drill and in a real
• If your home has two floors, every family member (including children) must be able to escape from the second floor
rooms. Escape ladders can be placed in or near windows to provide an additional escape route. Review the
manufacturer's instructions carefully so you'll be able to use a safety ladder in an emergency. Practice setting up the
ladder from a first floor window to make sure you can do it correctly and quickly. Children should only practice with a
grown-up, and only from a first-story window. Store the ladder near the window, in an easily accessible location. You don't
want to have to search for it during a fire.
• Always choose the escape route that is safest – the one with the least amount of smoke and heat – but be prepared
to escape through toxic smoke if necessary. When you do your fire drill, everyone in the family should practice getting low
and going through the smoke to your exit. By keeping your head low, you'll be able to breathe the "good" air that's closer to
• Closing doors on your way out slows the spread of fire, giving you more time to safely escape.
• In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an
emergency like this, practice "sealing yourself in for safety" as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors
between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming
in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY TODAY
In the event of a fire, properly installed and maintained smoke alarms will provide an early warning alarm to your
household. This alarm could save your own life and those of your loved ones by providing the chance to escape.
Your Smoke Alarm Quiz
The Smoke Alarms in My Home:
are installed on every level, especially near sleeping areas. YES NO
are tested once a month. YES NO
have their batteries replaced with new ones at least once a year. YES NO
are vacuumed over and kept free of dust. YES NO
have their batteries replaced and are retested, should they start making a “chirping” noise. YES NO
are replaced with new smoke alarms every 10 years. YES NO
Did you answer “NO” to any of the questions?
If so, keep reading to learn the answers to the most common questions about lifesaving smoke alarms.
WHY SHOULD MY HOME HAVE SMOKE ALARMS?
In the event of a fire, a smoke alarm can save your life and those of your loved ones. They are the single most important
means of preventing house and apartment fire fatalities by providing an early warning signal--so you and your family can
escape. Smoke alarms are the best safety devices you can buy and install to protect yourself, your family, and your home
OKAY, WHERE SHOULD I PUT THEM?
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the
early morning. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas.
Also, smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or above eye level on the walls. Since smoke and many deadly
gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always
follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
WHERE CAN I GET SMOKE ALARMS?
Many hardware, home supply, or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms. If you are unsure where to buy one in
your community, call your local fire department (on a non-emergency telephone number) and they will provide you with
some suggestions. Some fire departments offer smoke alarms for little or no cost.
ARE SMOKE ALARMS HARD TO INSTALL?
Not a bit. In most cases, all you will need is a screwdriver. Many brands are self-adhesive and will automatically stick to
the wall or ceiling where they are placed. However, be sure to follow the directions from the manufacturer because each
brand is different. If you are uncomfortable standing on a ladder, ask a relative or friend for help. Some fire departments
actually will install a smoke alarm in your home for you. Call your local fire department (again, on a non-emergency
telephone number) if you have problems installing a smoke alarm.
HOW DO I KEEP MY SMOKE ALARM WORKING?
Smoke alarms are very easy to take care of. There are two steps to remember:
1. Simply replace the batteries at least once a year. Tip: Pick a holiday or your birthday and replace the batteries each
year on that day. Some smoke alarms now on the market come with a 10-year battery. These alarms are designed to be
replaced as a whole unit, thus avoiding the need for battery replacement. If your smoke alarm starts making a “chirping”
noise, replace the batteries and retest it.
2. Keep them clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke
WHAT IF THE ALARM GOES OFF WHILE I’M COOKING?
Then it’s doing its job. Do not disable your smoke alarm if it alarms due to cooking or other non-fire causes. You may
not remember to put the batteries back in the alarm after cooking. Instead, clear the air by waving a towel near the alarm,
leaving the batteries in place. The alarm may have to be moved to a new location.
HOW LONG WILL MY SMOKE ALARM LAST?
About 8 to 10 years, after which time they should be replaced. Like most electrical devices, smoke alarms wear out. You
may want to write the purchase date with a marker on the inside of your unit. That way, you’ll know when to replace it.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement.
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW?
Some smoke alarms are considered to be “hard wired.” This means they are connected to the household electrical
system and may or may not have battery backup. It’s important to test every smoke alarm monthly and replace the
batteries with new ones at least once a year.
The United States Fire Administration would like to remind you of some important fire safety and prevention information:
Plan and practice escape plans several times a year.
Make sure your whole family knows when and how to call emergency telephone numbers.
What You Need To Know