Protecting against fire hazards when using a fireplace or wood stove

Before installing a new fireplace or wood stove, check with your municipality for authorization.

Improper installation or use of a fireplace or wood stove can cause a fire.

Each year, have your system inspected by a professional member of the Association des professionnels du chauffage This hyperlink will open in a new window. (heating professionals association) , ideally before the start of the heating season.

Installing a wood-burning device

Before installing a new wood-burning device, check with your municipality for authorization. Many municipalities prohibit the installation of certain models or new devices because wood heating is a major source of environmental contamination.

If installation is permitted, check that the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or United States Environmental Protection Agency (US/EPA) seal is on the device. These certified units reduce smoke and ash emissions, both inside and outside the home.

Notify your insurer of any additions or modifications to your wood-burning device.

Have your fireplace or wood stove and chimney installed by a professional member of the Association des professionnels du chauffage This hyperlink will open in a new window. (heating professionals association).

Clear the area around the heater of all objects and ensure that air can flow freely to the heater.

Make sure you have enough smoke detectors in all the right places.

Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in the room where the unit is located and near the bedrooms.

Keep a portable fire extinguisher on hand and learn how to use it.

Lighting a fireplace or wood stove

Make sure that the room where the unit is located is well ventilated.

Open the key or flap to the maximum to adjust the fresh air supply. 

In some cases, open the valve of the unit.

If your unit has an andiron (steel or cast iron grate where the logs are placed), lay newspaper or kindling on the top and bottom. If there is no grate, do so directly on the floor of the unit, under the chimney.

Never use accelerant (liquid or gel fire starter) to fuel the fire or cardboard.

Place kindling and two to three dry logs.

Always maintain air circulation.

Ignite the fire with a lighter, ideally a longer BBQ lighter, to reduce the risk of burns.

Place the spark arrestor to prevent embers from falling out of the unit.

If your unit has a door, leave it ajar for a few moments to provide the fire with a good supply of air to start. Watch for a few minutes and close the door.

Add logs as the fire diminishes.

After the second load, reduce the air intake slightly to prevent rapid combustion. Be careful not to restrict the air flow too much to avoid creosote which can cause a chimney fire.

Tips for use

Store cords of wood outside, away from the house.

Bring in only a few loads of wood at a time and place them away from the unit for safe keeping.

Use quality dry wood, as green or resinous wood increases creosote formation.

Use small logs, as they will burn cleaner and form less creosote.

Burn only a few logs at a time.

Allow enough air to enter the firebox so that the flames are bright, producing complete combustion and less smoke.

Do not store flammable materials such as paper, chemicals, paint, etc. in the vicinity.


Before the first fire of the year, examine your fireplace with a small mirror and make sure that

  • it is free of debris (bird's nest, loose parts, etc.).
  • the masonry and joints inside the fireplace are intact.
  • the firebricks inside your wood-burning fireplace are whole.
  • the door seal is not cracked.
  • no rust or corrosion appears on the outside chimney.

Chimney sweeping

Chimney sweeping helps prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning by allowing better evacuation of smoke and gases. It also removes highly flammable soot and creosote clinging to the walls.

Check the municipal regulations in effect concerning chimney sweeping. Have your chimney swept at least once a year, depending on the quality and quantity of wood burned. Consult your municipality to find out the municipal regulations in this regard.

A professional chimney sweep This hyperlink will open in a new window. will provide the following services inside and outside your home:

  • Vigorous brushing of the chimney.
  • Checking the condition of the entire heating system.
  • Cleaning each of its components and adjustment of the parts.
  • Checking the clearance around the unit.
  • Reporting breakage of or damage to the unit.

It is recommended that you have your chimney swept in the spring, as the deposits are still dry and therefore easier to remove. In addition, if the chimney sweep reports a problem, you will also have time to make the necessary repairs before winter.

Chimney sweep logs or chemical additives should never replace a professional chimney sweep. These products only remove part of the creosote deposits. Only a professional chimney sweep can thoroughly remove them.

Hot ashes

Improper storage of hot ashes can cause fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. To dispose of your ashes safely, you should

  • empty the ashes from the fireplace regularly, never with a vacuum cleaner, but with a metal shovel.
  • place hot ashes in a metal container with a raised bottom and a metal lid.
  • take the metal container outside, as hot ashes release carbon monoxide.
  • install it on a non-combustible surface at least a metre away from any object.
  • wait at least a full week before transferring the ashes from the metal container to another container (garbage can, compost bin) and stir the ashes to make sure they are completely cool. If you can, keep the ashes outside all winter and dispose of them only in the spring.

Last update: June 8, 2023


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