STEPHENTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As price tags on fuel oil and kerosene continue to skyrocket, more homeowners are turning to wood burning as an alternative heating source. Now is the time to make sure that your wood burning equipment is up to par and that wood stoves and pipes have the proper clearances in place—something the Stephentown Volunteer Fire Department recently stressed.

Firstly, officials said a wood stove should always be installed by a professional and inspected at least once a year. This is the surest way to prevent accidental fires and unnecessary wastage of time and money.

The burner should always have proper ventilation, as carbon monoxide buildup and poisoning can happen if the area around the wood burner is not receiving adequate airflow. Some models come with their own indicator but placing carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house is also crucial.

“Please make sure that your chimneys and stove pipes have been thoroughly cleaned and have no blockages within them,” Stephentown Fire Chief Corlew said on Facebook. “Keep in mind that certain critters have been known to crawl down into chimneys and make a temporary home which could cause backups as well.”

Smoke detectors should be installed and checked regularly to ensure they are in good working condition if you plan on burning wood in your home this winter. A fully functioning fire extinguisher should also be on-hand in a location known to all members of the household.

Before lighting the stove, the damper should be wide open to allow for a good flow of air, and it should be kept open until the fire is out and the ashes cool enough to touch.

Gasoline, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid, wrapping paper, and other highly flammable substances should never be used to start or rekindle a fire. They can create dangerous fireballs and cause an accumulation of combustible materials in the chimney. Wait for the wood kindling to catch fire and allow it to burn.

Burning too much wood at the same time can also cause creosote and tar to build up in stove pipes and cause a fire hazard. Add larger pieces gradually only after the kindling is burning properly, starting with split pieces of wood, being careful not to smother the fire by adding full logs too soon. When the fire is burning well and getting hotter, the airflow can be reduced to ensure the wood burns slowly and efficiently but cutting it off too much could kill the fire completely.

“Our firefighters will be training this evening on chimney fire operations to make sure that we are ready to go if and when we are called upon,” Chief Corlew continued. “We would love to see you, just not under those circumstances.”