Children's Safety for the Wood Stove Owner
As energy costs are rising, the wood stove is coming back into favor with many homeowners. While a wood stove can heat an entire home or help offset the high cost of electric or gas heat, consideration for children in the home must be a top priority. A fence either purchased or custom built, must be installed around the wood stove if young children are present. Crawling infants and toddlers are most at risk as they are too young to understand the dangers of a wood stove and the word 'no' is simply not enough. The enclosure must be tall enough that only an adult can step over it. It must also be made of materials that cannot be climbed on.
Vertical rails or fine mesh can keep a child from climbing over the fence. The enclosure should also be placed far enough from the wood stove that a reaching child cannot touch the surfaces of the stove. Even with a fence installed, a crawling child or toddler should never be left alone unsupervised in a room with a wood stove burning. Toddlers, especially, like to toss items over the fence. Heavier objects such as blocks could easily crack or break the glass front of certain models of stoves.
Plastic items, should they reach the top of the stove could easily melt and release toxic fumes into the area. From an early age, children should be taught the dangers of a wood stove. It should be explained that fire is indeed hot and should not be played with in any form. The same explanations given to children about the kitchen cook stove and safety should apply to a wood stove heater. Children are fascinated with fire. As you are loading a wood stove with either logs or pellets, this becomes a perfect time to discuss with them the dangers. You don't want a child to be terrified of the wood stove, but at the same time you do want to instill a healthy respect for the appliance. Older children can help with wood stove chores, such as bringing in firewood or pellets. They can also help sweep up the area or engage younger children while the parent is occupied with the stove. Other chores, such as loading the stove or emptying the ash pan is best left to older teenagers or adults.
Another concern with wood stoves, not just for children, is the pollutants put into the indoor air by the stove. If a child has an allergy to smoke or asthma, a wood stove could make an attack more likely. Care should be taken that such a child is out of the room when the stove is opened for filling or for cleaning the ash pan. Before purchasing any wood stove, make sure that the stove is EPA approved. Do not take the salesman's word for this; ask to see a demonstration model that includes the EPA sticker. The EPA has stringent requirements for wood stoves that will help keep indoor pollutants to a minimum. The disposal of the contents of the ash pan is another concern when children are present. Ashes should not be dumped in any area where children are likely to play, as there could be hot embers alive in the ashes. A better solution is to dump the ashes into an ash bucket and allow it to sit twenty four hours or at least overnight. Ash buckets should be kept within the confines of the fence until totally cold.
Firewood or pellets should also be kept within the fenced enclosure. Any wood chips or pellets that have fallen outside the fence should be swept up immediately if young children are in the home. Both chips and pellets pose a choking hazard for children who put either into their mouths. A pot of water should be kept on the wood stove when the stove is in use. Wood heat is a very dry heat and the water will help keep the air moist. This is especially important to help keep children's skin from drying out during the heating season. Infants are more at risk, but children and adults of any age can be affected by the drier air of a wood heated home. The use of precautions and safety measures can make children and wood stoves a happy mix. For centuries, children were raised in homes with either a wood stove or an open fireplace. With diligence and supervision, any home can be heated with wood and still have happy, healthy children.
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