The burning of solid fuels (wood, coal or pellets) in your stove, fireplace or insert, will inevitably leave behind ashes that need to be removed, regardless of how efficiently your particular unit burns. These remaining ashes must be removed periodically to prevent them from harming both the performance and durability of your unit. The frequency of the ash removal will depend on the product itself, how efficiently it burns, and the type of fuel being burned. The primary concern should be keeping you and your family members safe!
CARRYING ON A TRADITION
In Ancient times, man carried fire from one campsite to another by wrapping hot coals insulated by ashes in animal skins. Once he arrived at the new campsite, rekindling the fire was easy. He removed the coal from its ashen cocoon—which managed to keep the coal hot throughout the journey—and placed it on a small pile of leaves and/or twigs. He then blew on the hot ember to restart the fire. This is quite similar to how boy scouts are taught to start a fire today (minus the dryer lint). Unfortunately, many accidental fires are started this way as well. Consequently, proper disposal of fireplace ashes and embers is important to prevent house fires.
A HUGE FIRE HAZARD THAT’S EASILY AVOIDABLE
Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage occurs and dozens of families are displaced because of fires in their homes that are caused by the improper disposal of fireplace ashes.. According to statistics released by the NFPA, almost 10,000 fires are caused yearly due to improperly removing and discarding ashes. Fireplace and wood stove ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days after a fire. All one of these coals needs to flare up again is the addition of more oxygen. Therefore, extra care should be used in the storage and final disposal of them. There’s a reason fire departments often return to the scene of a fire to spray more water on smoldering timbers and newly flared coals. Even though a fire may appear to be out, embers and ash are still capable of causing accidental fires.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ASH CONTAINER
Never empty ashes into a paper or plastic bag, cardboard box, or other similar container. The only suitable means for ash storage is a metal container with a tight fitting cover, as this helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing the ashes, which can leave hot coals exposed for easy re-ignition. For optimum safety, spray the wood ashes with water prior to attaching the metal lid to the pail. As an additional safety precaution, never store your metal ash container on your deck, in your garage, or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from those hot coals to nearby flammable items. Countless wooden decks catch fire every year because of this one simple oversight. Instead, the container should be placed on a non-combustible surface; stone, concrete, brick, and slate are good options.
Garden areas or flowerbeds are ideal locations to dump your cooled fireplace ashes, allowing many nutrients to return to the soil (they’re high in potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorous). Make sure all dry leaves have been removed from the area before dumping your ashes in either a garden or flowerbed that’s away from the house; remember to spray the dispersed ashes and surrounding areas with water as an additional precautionary measure. For additional information on this and many other topics or to schedule an appointment, contact Owens Chimney Systems today!