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How to Build a Fire

Keeping It Going

A Fine Mess

Never use flammable liquids such as gasoline, lighting fluid, or kerosene to start a fire. Doing so could result in a fire that's much larger than you intended it to be, and possibly an explosion.

If you're using a fireplace with a metal curtain, close and secure it when the fire is going. If there are glass doors, leave them open while the fire is burning.

You can close the flue partway at this point. Doing so will regulate how fast the fire burns. If the room starts to smoke up, open the flue as necessary to increase airflow.

If you're using a wood-burning stove, close the fire door. Use the draft regulator to maintain the desired heat. Be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions for how to operate this device. How you set the regulator will depend on the wood you're using, how much space you're heating, and how warm you want things to be.

Putting It Out

A Fine Mess

If at all possible, never extinguish a fire quickly by pouring water on it. Cooling things down fast increases gas and water emission.

When the time comes to call it a day with your fire, it's best to let it burn out on its own. To expedite things, you can use fire tongs to move any unburned pieces of wood away from the coals. If possible, stand them on end in the corners of the firebox.

Leave the fire alone until it's completely burned out. This can take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours. By this time, there should be no heat coming from the ashes, and they should be completely gray.

Keep the damper open as long as there's wood smoldering in the firebox, and keep the screen pulled until you know that the fire is completely out.

Cleaning It Up

When the fire is completely out, remove the ashes with a metal scoop and bucket. Metal is the preferred material in case any glowing embers remain. If you're not sure everything's completely out, you can add water to the bucket.

Finally, give the ashes a proper burial. If you have a compost heat, they can be added to the mix. If not, place them in a heavy plastic bag and add them to the trash.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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