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The Dangers of Burning "Green" Wood

My husband and I learned an important lesson this winter, burning "green" wood is a no, no! For the past couple of years in California we have had very mild winters. This year was a stark contrast. The cold came quickly and set in for the long haul. My husband and I found ourselves rapidly depleting the wood pile we had so arduously stacked for the winder. Luckily we live on forty acres and the drought left us no shortage of trees that couldn't handle the lack of water and fell over. So, we began gathering them from around the property to turn them into more firewood for the wood burner.

Of course we started with the trees that were the biggest eye sores or were threatening fence lines. Unfortunately for us these were also the trees that had only been down for a short time. The wood was heavy, a pain in the butt to get burning in the stove and was creating a much bigger problem then we had even considered.

One night, we started a big fire but we noticed that the smoke was not leaving through the chimney. We were baffled because we had just had the chimney cleaned at the start of the season. We blamed air pressure or temperature and continued to feed the fire. It was cold in our house and the propane for the heater was running out. We had called the propane company but they were so backed up they couldn't even give us a verified delivery date. We needed the fire to keep warm and not deplete the propane so we kept the fire going. Then we noticed our chimney was starting to ooze this black resin. The smoke intensified in the house but we thought maybe we could get the chimney hot enough to solve the problem so we fed the fire some more. The chimney continued to drip, the house continued to fill with smoke, fire alarms beeped and we decided we had to kill the fire and call the chimney sweep the following day.

Upon calling our chimney man he let us know he couldn't come out for a couple of days but would be there as soon as he could. He told my husband to make sure the screen at the top of the chimney was clean in the mean time. Now, we have a very pitched roof that stands very high up in the air. It had been raining and I was not excited about the prospect of having my husband climb all the way up there but he did and he found a way to knock the soot off of the screen. The smoke situation improved and we continued to burn fires until the chimney guy made it.

The chimney sweep was dumbfounded by what had happened and he knew immediately we had been burning moist, "green" wood. He had never seen a double walled chimney weep like ours had but reassured me that others were making the same mistake this winter. He told me I had to quit using that wood immediately and find some seasoned, dry firewood. He told us that if he had not come out and cleaned the chimney and we had continued to burn that wood, we would have had a chimney fire and could have lost the house! I never understood how serious it was to not use this "green" wood and it sounded like many others hadn't either. Luckily we had many more trees that have been down for years so we went and began gathering that wood instead. If you are purchasing wood make sure it is dry, light and well seasoned, otherwise you may be smoked out as well!

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