Area Agencies Want Our Community to Remain Healthy and Fire Safe

Jamie McIntyre, Community Risk Reduction Manager, 509-435-7058

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 12:26 p.m.

For the safety of your home and community, follow proper wood burning practices this winter. The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) along with the City of Spokane Fire Department, and Spokane Valley Fire Department are partnering this winter to remind people that improper wood heating wastes wood, creates unnecessary smoke in our neighborhoods, and can also be a factor in house fires during the cold winter months.

“A smoky chimney is a sign that the fire isn’t burning efficiently, either due to the fuel or the operator. “A small, hot fire using dry, seasoned wood is considered best practices,” according to Lisa Woodard, Communications & Outreach Manager for Spokane Clean Air.

“December, January and February are the leading months for home heating fires,” stated Fire Marshal Greg Rogers, Spokane Valley Fire Department. “Allowing creosote to build up in the chimney is a key factor that can lead to a potential chimney fire in a home or business that uses wood as a heating source.”

“The leading factors contributing to home fires, and fire related deaths, include: failure to clean heating equipment, primarily the chimney, and heating equipment being too close to things that burn like furniture, curtains, or bedding,” stated Lance Dahl, Fire Marshal for the City of Spokane Fire Department.  “There are simple steps you can take to prevent a home fire. Have your chimney serviced and cleaned by a professional and be mindful of keeping flammable items away from heating equipment,” Dahl continued.

According to Spokane Clean Air, wood smoke is a complex mixture of fine particles, carbon monoxide and other compounds. When inhaled, fine particles of smoke can travel deep into the lungs. Infants, children, adults over age 65, and people with heart or respiratory illness are at greatest risk from smoke exposure. Additionally, COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, which makes people vulnerable to being more severely affected because of air pollution and smoke exposure.

When air pollution is increasing during stable weather patterns, like we are expecting this week, Spokane Clean Air may temporarily restrict wood heating in two stages, starting with fireplaces and non-EPA certified wood heating stoves and inserts. If air quality continues to decline, restrictions may be expanded to include all wood burning devices, until air quality improves. There are exemptions where wood is the sole heat source.                                                                           

Local air quality and fire protection agencies suggest these steps for cleaner and safer wood heating:

  1. Have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned as often as recommended by a licensed professional. Allowing creosote to build up in your chimney can lead to a chimney fire.
  2. Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from any heating equipment. Maintain a 3-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and any heating equipment.
  3. Stay current on the burn status at 509-477-4710 or online at
  4. Burn only dry, seasoned wood or manufactured logs/pellets. To properly season, wood should be split, stacked, and loosely covered to dry at least 9 – 12 months. Seasoned wood produces more heat and less creosote.
  5. Keep the fire small and hot. Start the fire with small pieces of kindling and keep the fire moderately hot, adding larger pieces of split wood. Overloading the firebox inhibits the circulation of air flow resulting in a smoldering fire.
  6. About 20 minutes after starting your fire, check the chimney. You should see very little, if any smoke. Too much smoke can result in enforcement action – there is a 20% opacity (smoke density) limit.
  7. Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a metal container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other buildings. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.