Seasons Of The Hearth
By Tim Franey
WATER CAN CAUSE FIRE
I remember hearing the story of how my great grandparents first farm house in Idaho burned down. Great grandpa had butchered a hog and was heating a large wash tub of water to scald it in. He kept making the fire hotter and hotter in an attempt to boil the large amount of water. He was paying attention to the status of the water and not the chimney...which somehow cracked and caught the house on fire. Talk about burning the bacon!
Anyway, I mention the story in this season because October is National Fire Prevention month and because the story combines the top two causes for home fires in the U.S. today: Cooking related fires and home heating related fires.
For wood stoves, the #1 cause of a chimney fire is creosote build-up and the #1 cause of creosote build-up is the burning of unseasoned, damp wood. Water in the wood becomes steam in the stove which mixes with the smoke then cools and forms "smoke condensation",
otherwise known as creosote. Creosote, left unchecked, begins to develop inside of the chimney and this fuel rich coating just needs a spark or a very hot fire to set it ablaze. So the burning of wet wood, besides being highly frustrating, is also potentially highly dangerous.
During October my kids come home from school with papers sporting characters like Sparky the Fire Safety Dog. He's a fun dog who's serious about escape routes and checking smoke alarm batteries. Now I doubt that Sparky was around in my great grandfather's day but if he was, and if he had taught about wood stove fire safety, then that ol' pig might not have have squealed the last laugh.