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Burning Wood Cleanly - Video Vignette

If you burn it, you breathe it. And breathing smoke from wood that is not properly dried can cause serious health effects. We want you to be aware of those effects…and help you avoid them by burning the right wood the right way.

Smoke irritates the eyes and airways, which causes coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes and a runny nose. For those with heart disease, the smoke can make symptoms worse and include chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, or fatigue. Those with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply, compounded by symptoms that include coughing phlegm, chest discomfort, and shortness of breath. Even healthy people can experience these symptoms if smoke levels are high.

How much wood smoke you are exposed to and how high the level of dangerous chemicals is in the smoke depends on how well the wood is burning, how quickly the smoke rises and spreads, and the amount of time you spend breathing wood smoke. That's the case whether it's from an indoor wood stove or an outdoor campfire.

If you must burn wood, always burn dry wood - it burns hotter and cleaner and is also 30 percent more efficient than logs with a high moisture content. Wood that has been split, dried, and stored under cover for at least a year burns best and produces fewer harmful chemicals that remain in your system for years.

Here are some tips for burning wood properly:

    • Build small fires to help the wood burn completely. Adding too much wood at one time cuts down on the air to the fire and leaves unburned wood.
    • Keep your fire hot. Dampering down your stove cuts off the air, which wastes wood, creates a lot of smoke, and produces very little heat.
    • Check your chimney smoke. If you can see smoke coming out of your chimney, you are wasting fuel and your fire needs more air or drier wood.
    • Wet wood is a waste of wood. To make sure your wood pile is dry, remember to split, stack, and store, so you save money and help keep the air inside and outside of your house clean. Split the wood at least once. Stack it in a pile that has plenty of air flow. Store wood in an open air shed, or cover the pile for at least six of the drier months so it dries properly.
    • And never burn tires, plastic, paint, asphalt, commercial paper and cardboard, petroleum products, metals or treated wood. Not only is it unhealthy, it's illegal.

Burn wise and breathe easy by burning the right wood, the right way, in the right stove. For more tips on burning wisely visit Burn Wise Alaska.