Chimney & Woodstove Fire Safety

According to the State Fire Marshall there were 665 fire incidents involving solid fuel appliances, fireplaces, and chimneys in Massachusetts during 2003. These fires were responsible for 20 injuries, 1 fire death and resulted in $3.2 million in property losses. These incidents make up 45% of all fires linked to heating systems. In Carlisle there are usually 12 of these types incidents each year. Some involve property loss with an insurance claim. Most all are very upsetting to the homeowner and a disruption to home life at the most inconvenient time.

A few measures residents can take to help avoid a problem and prevent a fire include:


  • Be sure the stove you are purchasing to burn wood or coal is approved by Underwriter’s Laboratory or another recognized testing laboratory.


  • A building permit must be obtained from the Town of Carlisle prior to the installation of fire places, wood or coal burning stoves and must be inspected by the Carlisle building inspector prior to their initial use as required by the Massachusetts State Building Code. Homeowner insurance companies often require a copy of a building permit for a solid fuel appliance.
  • Allow at least 36 inches of clearance around the appliance to prevent combustibles from coming in contact with a heat source.
  • Solid fuel heating appliances cannot share a common flu with chimney flues utilized by other solid fuel, fossil fuel, or gas fired appliances.


  • Have the chimney and flue inspected by a qualified mason prior to use. Cracks in the flue or motor joints can allow flames and heated gases to extend into he structure.

Proper Use

  • Most chimney fires occur due to a build up of creosote, by -product of burning wood. Have your chimney flue cleaned before each heating season. Burn only dry, well seasoned, hardwood to reduce creosote accumulation.
  • Do not use flammable liquids to start the fire.
  • Never leave children unattended near the stove.
  • Check that the damper is open before lighting the fire. Failure to do so can result in an accumulation of smoke and carbon monoxide within the home. Do not close the damper before the fire has died out and the embers are cold.
  • Use a fireplace screen to prevent flying sparks and embers from falling out onto the floor.
  • Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to provide protection for your family.

Proper Ash Disposal

  • Ashes cleaned out from the stove or fireplace should be shoveled into a metal bucket with a metal lid, placed outside, on the ground, away from the building, to prevent fires. Do not place ashes into a paper bag or cardboard box. Ashes and embers can stay hot for days and ignite combustibles.

If you have a problem with your fireplace or woodstove and you are faced with an unsafe or questionable situation call 911. As a standard procedure the fire department will send an engine and the ladder truck. This will bring several firefighters to your home within eight to ten minutes of your call. Upon arrival the officer in charge will make an assessment of the current conditions. Routine actions may include putting a ladder to the roof as a precaution. In addition, we use infrared thermometers to determine the heat levels of the stove and surrounding materials. Finally we check your home for carbon monoxide and ventilate if necessary. Lastly we advise you of what we find in the process of our investigation and make recommendations for your safety. You can be assured that we will not leave your home until we have determined that it is safe. For questions and further information on woodstove and fireplace safety you may contact our fire prevention office at 978-287-0072.