A crackling wood-burning fireplace is more than a source of supplemental heat on a chilly fall evening. Many memories will be made in front of a burning fireplace in the coming months.
Here are some fireplace tips to remember:
Whether you buy firewood or cut a dead tree down in the back yard, the best woods to burn are hardwood tree species. Do not burn pine, spruce or other types of evergreens in the fireplace. They contain pitch, a sticky sap that vaporizes and is carried up the flue. As it cools, the pitch condenses on the chimney walls and becomes a fire hazard. Hardwood species do not have pitch and are not as dangerous to burn. Recommended woods to burn include: Osage orange, black locust, hickory, post oak, pecan, honeylocust, mulberry, bur oak, red oak, sugar maple, green ash, black walnut, hackberry, sycamore, silver maple, cottonwood and willow. Burn dry wood only -- wood that has been cut for at least a year. Fresh wood with moisture in it will not burn as hot and is more likely to shoot out dangerous sparks.
A fireplace should be equipped with various tools and safety devices:
l Screen or glass doors should be used.
l A log rack should be used to keep wood off the ground and to prevent burning logs from rolling out of the fireplace.
l Fire pokers and log tongs should be used to manipulate and stack the wood while it burns.
To store firewood, stack it neatly, bark side up, on supports at least eight inches off the ground. By stacking it bark side up, rain and snow will not hasten the decay of the wood. By storing it off the ground, you will help prevent unwanted insects and other pests from taking up residency in the wood pile.
To add a little pizazz and spark to the fire, there are commercially available products that turn different colors when burned. Pine cones, wood chips, and small wood sticks that have been treated with copper sulfate will burn with an emerald green flame. These products are safe to use if handled and burned according to package directions.
Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and heat boxes have been an important part of the American home. With proper care, they add warmth and a wonderful gathering place on cold winter nights.
-- Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.