Texas Living

A Hot Start to the Season

By Kristy Alpert 10.20.14

For most Texans, lighting the first fire of the season can almost be viewed as a wintery rite of passage. With little need to heat the home the rest of the year, the first sign of a drop in temperature can be enough to ignite a fiery longing for a heated hearth in any warm-blooded Texan’s heart.

But with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) stating that more than 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year occur from heating sources like fireplaces and wood stoves that haven’t been properly maintained, lighting the match too soon could end up being a costly mistake.

“All it takes is just one spark,” says Travis Askew, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance agency manager in Granbury, Texas. “Essentially, you are starting a campfire inside your home, and I think a lot of people burn their fireplaces with no mishaps for so many years that they can become complacent in how they are operating a live fire. Some of the most damaging claims I have seen in a home are from the house filling up with smoke and the damage it does to walls, furniture, and clothes. The smell has to be removed from all the sources in the house that absorbed the smoke, so sometimes the smoke damage can cause the claim to be much higher than the damage the fire actually caused.”

To avoid a costly claim, Askew recommends taking these tips from the USFA to heart before lighting the first fire of the season.

  1. Have the fireplace inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  2. Clear the area around the hearth of any flammable materials.
  3. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire to ensure the fire receives enough air while keeping creosote from building up in the chimney.
  4. Close glass doors when the fire is out.
  5. Use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
  6. Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
  7. Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces.
  8. Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms, and may vary by situation. © 2014 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance