October 19, 2021 – Is it OK to use an indoor wood stove, even with the burn ban still in effect? Yes, if it’s done safely. Dropping temperatures and some much-needed precipitation are here, time to safely keep warm and properly dispose of the ash.

Wood stoves are still a popular heating source in the area. Burning safely not only reduces health risks but also reduces the chance of chimney fires or worse.

Be a good neighbor, build small hot fires rather than large smoldering ones. Using seasoned hardwoods produces much less smoke. Install smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide sensor in your home or check the batteries of existing smoke detectors!

The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District provides these Burn Wise Tips:

1. Save money and time. Burn only dry, seasoned wood and maintain a hot fire.

  • Season and dry wood outdoors for at least 6 months before burning it. 12 months for hardwoods like oak.
  • Start fires with clean newspaper and dry kindling or consider having a professional install a natural gas or propane log lighter in your open fireplace.
  • Burn hot fires.
  • Don’t burn wet wood: it creates a lot of smoke and burns inefficiently.
  • Never burn garbage, plastic, or pressure treated wood, which can produce harmful chemicals when burned.
  • Learn more at EPA.gov about best burn practices.

2. Keep your appliance properly maintained.

  • To maintain proper airflow, regularly remove ashes from your wood-burning appliance into a metal container with a cover and store outdoors.
  • Have a certified technician inspect and service your appliance annually.
  • Have your chimney annually cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. Nearly 7 percent of home fires are caused by creosote build up in the chimney.
  • A properly installed and maintained wood-burning appliance burns more efficiently.
  • If you smell smoke in your home, something is wrong. Shut down the appliance and call a certified chimney sweep to inspect the unit.
  • Learn more at EPA.gov about correct installation and maintenance.

3. Keep your home healthy by upgrading to an efficient, EPA-approved wood-burning appliance.

  • Today’s wood-burning appliances burn cleaner and produce less smoke inside and outside your home.
  • Efficient wood-burning appliances burn less wood, saving time and money.
  • Learn how to choose the best appliance for your needs at EPA.gov. Click here to see if there are any active grants for replacing your old wood stove.

Can your ashes!

Proper disposal of ashes reduces fire danger for you and your neighborhood, especially during the Fall shoulder season. Firefighters regularly respond to vegetation fires caused by still hot ashes or BBQ coals improperly disposed of. Embers from hot ashes easily reignite!

  • Have heating equipment, chimney and stove inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep every fall just before heating season.
  • Allow ashes to COOL before disposing of them. Four days or 96 hours is the minimum recommended cooling period for ashes.
  • Place completely cooled ashes in a covered metal container. Keep the container at least 10 feet away from the home and other buildings. They should NEVER be disposed of in a plastic garbage box or can, a cardboard box, or paper grocery bag. Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes.
  • The metal container should be placed away from anything flammable. It should not be placed next to a firewood pile, up against or in the garage, on or under a wood deck, or under a porch.
  • After sitting for a week in the metal container, check them again to be sure that they are cool. If so, the ashes are then safe to dispose of in your trash.
  • As a safety precaution keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove, or any other heating appliance, and create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires. It is important to make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying, and never leave a fire unattended, particularly when children are present.