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How to avoid wood burner or chimney fires as temperatures drop

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- It's safe to say that it has been a milder winter so far in North Central Wisconsin, especially in comparison to previous years.

Now that temperatures are beginning to consistently drop more overnight and into the early morning, the Wausau Fire Department says it's pretty common for people to begin switching some of their methods of heat.

During times that are milder, sticking to gas or electric heat is most common. When temperatures shift the preferred method changes to wood burning.

Before switching to wood burning, making sure fireplaces and chimneys are properly clean should take place first. Clearing vents and flues of debris, snow, nests or anything that may obstruct it is important.

"Make sure that when you do fire up you're using your damper properly and you're using clean dry fire wood," Wausau Fire Department Battalion Chief Jeremy Kopp said. "When you start using green fire wood and different things like that you get different heavier smoke, and that can bother the neighbors or fill your house."

He said checking your chimney should be something that's done before the winter season, but it's best to check now if you're switching methods.

If a chimney fire starts as just that, but spreads and turns into something bigger, then it can become classified as a structure fire. That'll create larger problems of course.

"If your chimney starts to fail or has a crack in it and something like that, then the fire can expand from outside the chimney and into the structure itself," Battalion Chief Kopp added. "Then we have another problem which obviously is a structure fire compared to a chimney fire."

A main cause is usually a creosote buildup.

Make sure the vents on the outside of your home are uncovered as well.

If you get used to the sound of your chimney or wood burner, it becomes easy to differentiate any sounds that may be much louder or extra crackling noises. Those can be an indicator that something may be wrong and the next step should be to have it checked out by a professional.

Rashad Williams

News 9 Reporter

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