Starting a fire successfully

Starting a fire without a lot of smoke and odor can be very tricky. A job that you think will be easy turns out to be a nightmare. In this article we will discuss fire starting safety, how to start one and how to maintain it.

When fire is in the picture, safety comes first. Before starting a fire in your fireplace or wood burning appliance, be sure to run a checklist.

Check your chimney.

Be sure it is clear of any obstructions and the flue is clean. Learn more about chimney safety

Review your heating appliance manual. Be sure you know how to operate it before starting.

Have the proper tools available to you. A pair of wood burner's gloves is a must. Be sure to have an ash can, poker and most importantly a fire extinguisher.

Finally, be sure your smoke alarms are in proper working order.

Where to start

The most important thing to a successful fire is the wood. Burning unseasoned wood can create many problems. On the same note, so can over dry wood. Seasoned firewood will give you the best result. It will also reduce the amount of creosote that will build up on the inside of your chimney flue. Tips on purchasing seasoned firewood

Keep Your Family Safe

Newspaper will also be needed. It is best not to use the “flyer's” due to the wax coating. When burned, this wax can give off harmful chemicals. Your newspaper should be crumpled but not too tight. Air will need to get into the newspaper. This will reduce the amount of smoke that can come back into your living area. The newspapers should then be placed under the grate.

Dry kindling or splits of wood should then be placed in a cris-cross pattern over your newspapers. Again, you need to allow for air to circulate. Don't skimp on the kindling you use. Your kindling is your key to successfully starting your fire.

Finally, add some larger pieces of kindling and a few small logs.

At this point you want to make sure that your chimney is drafting upwards. Many times chimneys will reverse when not in use. This is due to the fact that cold air falls. To check the draft of your chimney, open the damper or if using an appliance, open the door. If there is a cold draft coming down the chimney it has indeed reversed itself. Prior to lighting your fire, twist a piece of newspaper like a torch, make it so is has a long "handle". Light the end of it and raise it up into the flue. After a few seconds you will start to hear the draft taking the air up the chimney. If you look at the flame you will see it being drawn up into the flue. This shows that you have started a good draft and is ready for the fire. Immediately light your fire. The heat will warm the chimney so it will not reverse again. Chimney Performance Problems

NOTE: If you have an appliance, place the newspaper up in the stove as high has possible.

How to maintain your fire

Now that you have successfully started a fire the job of maintaining it starts. Many people make the mistake of either loading more wood on too quickly or closing the damper or air control. Even if your fire looks like it is roaring, you have to give it time to make a bed of coals. You must also give your fire time to heat up the appliance and chimney flue. Once these critical elements are established your can put more logs onto the fire, dampen it down, sit back and enjoy.

Always be sure to keep a flame on your fire and don't let it burn down too low before adding more wood. A cold, smoldering fire will not only emit more smoke but it will not burn off the flue gases properly and this will result in creosote buildup. What is Creosote

Clean up

Be sure to empty your ashes regularly. Prior to shoveling your ashes, be sure that they are completely cool. This can take up to 24 hours after your fire has be extinguished. Use your ash can to transport the ashes out of your fireplace or wood burning appliance. Store ashes outside in a metal container away from combustibles. Many home fires are started from improperly stored ashes.

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