Importance of fire prevention
PHOTO COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK
Creosote build-up in a chimney caused by burning green or resinous wood is highly flammable and can lead to a house-threatening fire.
October 4-10 marks this year’s edition of National Fire Prevention Week and with the population spending more time at home, the annual reminder about fire safety takes on special importance.
With people not allowed to eat in restaurants, as well as working in many cases from home, the activity in the kitchen goes up and so does the risk of fire. “Since COVID started, there’s been a lot more cooking at home, and therefore more fire hazards,” says Daniel Leblanc, Assistant Director of the Hudson Fire Department. He says it’s meant an increase in frequency of dangerous situations and as we enter into a new round of ‘level red’ restrictions, it’s more important than ever to keep fire safety in mind and avoid getting distracted in the kitchen.
Says Leblanc, “There’s also a need to take precautions with backyard campfires and to make sure your chimney is properly maintained as we enter into fireplace season.”
Maintenance a must
More time at home will also mean more fireplace use. A charred, sooty buildup called creosote accumulates on the inside of your chimney over time, caused by burning damp or resinous wood and by the reaction that happens when hot, ashy smoke rises from the fireplace chamber into the cooler interior of the chimney walls. It’s normal and unavoidable but too much buildup can actually ignite at high temperatures – creating a house-threatening situation where a column of fire is rising through the chimney to the upper floors and roof.
“It’s important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned on a regular basis,” says Hudson’s Local Chimney Sweep Michael Coon. He says getting regular professional inspections will help you avoid unnecessary dangers, but also that there are things you can do yourself to minimize the risks.
“It’s a good idea to clean your chimney once a season, but if you really can’t afford it every single year one thing that can help is to make sure you have very dry, seasoned wood that will burn cleaner.” He recommends making an investment in two years’ worth of firewood, then replenishing annually as you go to make sure you always have a supply of properly conditioned wood. “It makes a difference,” he says. “The fire will look the same if the wood you’re burning is green or dry, but I see the difference it makes on the insides of chimneys when I inspect them.” You’ll still have to clean your chimney regularly, especially if it’s the prefab metal style that’s even more prone to temperature fluctuations, but making sure your wood is dry will help.
During Fire Prevention Week, local fire departments across the country will be sharing tips and reminders to help people avoid fires. In Hudson they’ll be releasing daily announcements and documents outlining different aspects of fire safety. Says Leblanc, “We’re going to have little capsules each day on Facebook and on the town website, and we’re going to directly target issues we’re seeing lately in our own environment.”
While interacting directly with kids at schools and daycares won’t always be as workable as it was in the past, they are still communicating and at a minimum making sure that emergency plans are up to date and understood. Leblanc said less schools will want to attempt practice evacuations with all the restrictions in place about mixing groups of students, but that the fire department is ready to assist them as needed in any way they can.
“We’re also doing our ‘Grand Evacuation’ this year on the night of October 7,” says Leblanc. It’s an annual tradition where responders patrol the streets with lights and sirens on and encourage families to practice home evacuations and meet them at the street. “We won’t be able to get too up-close this year, and we might not be able to make it to every single street, but people will definitely notice the commotion and it’s a good time for families to practice for fire emergencies. The main thing is we want everyone to make sure they stay healthy and stay safe.”