Nik Colyer: Crisis averted — this time
On Oct. 18, I was driving home and suddenly I spotted a billow of smoke cross the road in front of me. Knowing that timing was critical, I stopped my car in the middle of the road, jumped out and raced up the small rise to find a 30-foot patch of dense forest happily burning away with three people desperately struggling to put it out using two piddly garden hoses.
With nothing in hand, I stomped at the edge of the flames as we all rushed to kill what could have been a complete disaster for at the very least our entire neighborhood.
Thanking our lucky stars, after 15 minutes we did succeed in squelching that blaze in the middle of 200 miles of dense forest. When I asked the woman how it started, she said, with much embarrassment, that she had dumped ashes that were two days cold out of her wood stove on to the forest floor.
Lucky for everyone she learned a huge lesson about cold ashes, but I want to speak about another concern that can be just as dangerous at this time of year.
If you are using wood to heat your home, may I suggest that you refrain from using your stove until the rains soak up any chance of fire in our forest.
The most dangerous time is when a wood stove is first lit, especially if paper is used to get the fire started. Paper is light and becomes air born quickly with the slightest heat rise, floating up the chimney and out onto our vulnerable forest.
The second most dangerous time for a wood stove is when the fire reached its full heating capacity. Even if the chimney has recently been cleaned, creosote is constantly building up on the inside of the chimney. When the fire reaches temperatures high enough, it ignites, the creosote crackles and pulls away from the build up on the chimney. If the heat is rising fast enough the long glowing embers can float on the rising air and out of your chimney.
Please, go buy yourself an electric heater to break the chill and put on extra clothes, because the cost of being the cause of a forest fire far outweighs the measly price of a heater and the electricity it takes.
Nik C. Colyer lives in Nevada City.
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