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Fall means (cough) smoke

Fall is upon us. That means, on certain days, smelly smoke is upon us.

I’m not talking about smoke from prescribed burns. It’s the smoke from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves that really gets me going.

So far, the stench hasn’t been too bad. One day last week, when the weather was cold and drizzly, a neighbor’s chimney oozed smelly, gray smoke.

But as we get into the dreary, overcast, inversion-plagued days of winter, I know the odor will increase.

Firewood burns cleanest and hottest when it’s dry. That translates to cleaner smoke rolling out into the atmosphere and less creosote building up in chimneys and flues.

Less creosote means fewer chimney fires.

Over the years, as I’ve been working on stories about house fires, I can’t count how many times I’ve had a fire chief tell me the cause of a chimney fire was creosote buildup. Many such fires burn themselves out, but occasionally they’ll set a roof on fire or heat up a wall or protruding nail so much that the fire spreads.

The results can be devastating.

There also are health concerns with smoldering fires, which contain more particulates. Those suspended chunks of junk can invade the lungs and wreak havoc for folks with asthma, lung disorders and immune system problems, not to mention everyone else.

As we head into the coldest months, I would urge folks to burn only dry wood, cover their wood piles and make sure the fires they start burn clean and hot.

Dee Camp is a reporter at The Chronicle. She can be reached via email at dcamp@omakchronicle.com.

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