smokey bearWood stoves have always been an important Vermont icon. With proper use, they can be a more affordable, more cozy method of home heating. Given the state of the economy, many of us are looking for a less expensive alternative. We also welcome the comfort of good aesthetics. The wood stove answers the call on both counts.

Some people new to using wood heat may not know how to do it safely. According to the Department of Public Service, heating equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires in Vermont. New stove users can be particularly vulnerable.

SparkyThe hazards of heating with wood include fires started by the heat radiated by the stove, stove pipe or chimney. If this heat is excessive it can ignite walls, floors and other combustible materials. Fires are also started by sparks and glowing coals falling out of front loading stoves when opened, or by flames leaking out of faulty chimneys. Puff-backs are also possible, leading to either flames or smoke coming out of the stove’s air inlets.

In any case, these dangers can be avoided. Learn as much as you can from your wood stove dealer and installer. And be vigilant about good maintenance. Good chimney maintenance is the key to safely using wood heat, but when finances are tight, chimney – and even furnace – maintenance is often overlooked and can become a fire hazard.

Preventing fire damage is worth every moment and penny it takes. Smokey Bear is the mascot of the fire service and Sparky of the fire department. Perhaps the dollar should be the symbol of good chimney maintenance. It represents the return on your investment.

image credits: US Fire service,