Fire Safety Tips and Tricks

It may be wet outside but in California, fire safety is always a priority. At the Grange Farm School, student tents come with a wood stove. When it’s cold (not that often) we burn a lot of wood, resulting in a lot of potential disasters. Today we had Little Lake Grange officer Mike Burgess give a lesson on fire efficiency, safety, and techniques.

One method he stressed is TOP DOWN. If you burn wood throughout the cold winter months, I highly encourage you to experiment with this method. The general idea is that you disregard everything anyone ever told you about how to build a fire i.e. log cabin, teepee…and instead put your big logs on the bottom, newspaper on top of that, and then kindling above the newspaper. This all may seem counterintuitive but it is actually the most efficient way to make a fire.

Why? When you build “top down”you minimize smoke and achieve a more efficient and hotter burn. All the smoke you see coming off the fire is unburnt BTUs, or lost heat. This way, smoke rising from the bottom logs gets burnt by the top of the fire. When the kindling catches, the embers fall down onto the logs below and those embers help to ignite the pre-heated wood.

So what did we learn today?

  • Heat radiates out from the fire in a complete circle, not just upward where you see flame
  • Don’t put wet rocks in your wood burning stove (they explode)
  • For thermal insulation inside the stove use fire bricks, on top use dry rock or a tea kettle
  • Always use top down fire methods
  • Have sand near your fire, not just water
  • All newspapers burn differently, find out which one works best for you!

“Many new woodstove owners are surprised to find out how quickly a chimney can plug up in the spring and fall, when little wood is used but fires are damped down drastically to keep the house from overheating. Whenever creosote reaches a thickness of 1/4 inch clean it out or have a sweep do it for you. Above all, never let the gentle, soothing heat lull you into forgetting what resides inside the woodstove: a tenuously domesticated monster called fire.”

Thank you Mike Burgess!

For more information, installation, daily operation and maintenance, here is some further reading: Fire Reading



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