Call for a permit now — or call for a fire later.
Most local towns require residents to have wood and pellet stoves inspected when they are installed. Some fire departments conduct inspections for a fee and others do it for free.
Given the high price of heating oil, many people are installing other heat sources and area fire officials said they wish more of those people would have stoves inspected before it's too late.
Atkinson requires a permit, but fire Chief Michael Murphy said he doesn't think many people know that's the case. He's responded to calls and seen the results of people installing wood stoves on their own.
"In most cases, if they have just installed it without calling us first, nine out of 10 times it would fail an inspection for one reason or another," Murphy said.
When wood stoves are incorrectly installed, it can cause chimney fires and smoke in the house, he said. When pellet stoves are incorrectly installed, they can cause carbon monoxide detectors to go off, he said.
A $25 permit can help prevent that, he said.
"It would be nice if stores said something," Murphy said. "And if you look at the instruction manuals, the third paragraph says to consult fire officials."
Hampstead fire Chief Chip Hastings said he always has a steady number of people asking for inspections, but fears that could change, especially for elderly people on fixed incomes.
"I'm a little concerned about what the winter has in store for us," he said. "Something is going to suffer, I'm afraid, so we need to stress that safety be paramount."
Many insurance companies require people to have wood and pellet stoves professionally installed, but Hastings said there are still a fair number of residents who try to do it themselves. That can be fine, as long as they don't cut corners, he said.
When Hastings does a $30 inspection, he makes sure the manufacturer's clearances and standards are met. Those standards are more strict for wood stoves than for wood pellet stoves, which are better insulated, he said.
"It's important to observe the safety rules or someone is going to end up losing a house or a life," Hastings said.
Windham fire Chief Tom McPherson agreed that some people fulfill the requirement in his town and some don't.
"It's kind of difficult to enforce sometimes," he said. "Homeowners want to do it on their own."
For $25, a fire inspector will make sure a stove's flue is installed correctly and the stove is set up far enough away from combustibles," McPherson said.
A permit also is necessary in Danville and residents there are responding, fire Chief Steve Wood said.
"We've done a lot this year with the oil (prices)," he said. "We're getting lots of requests."
In Sandown, there isn't an inspection fee, but there is an ordinance, fire Chief Bill Tapley said.
"Start charging fees and they won't come," he said.
The Londonderry and Derry fire departments will do an inspection at no cost. Salem Fire Department officials do not conduct courtesy inspections.
Town regulations for wood and pellet stoves