A pellet stove may have caused a recent fire in a Derry home, but firefighters say disasters like that can be prevented.
Michael Scott, Derry Fire Department's director of Fire Prevention, said the fire Monday at the home of Mark and Jennifer Salvucci on 12 Eastman Drive is still under investigation.
"We believe the fire was related to the pellet stove," he said yesterday.
Mark Salvucci said Tuesday the fire started at the pellet stove and spread from there.
Scott said the Derry Fire Department has put out only a few fires due to pellet stoves in the past year.
"Usually, there's a fire because someone did something wrong," he said. "They put stuff too close to the stove or improperly vented it. Stoves are all actually safe, whether a wood stove or pellet stove. The human error is the biggest thing that causes a fire with any kind of stove."
A pellet stove is very different from a traditional wood stove. It requires electricity, which powers a motor that feeds pellets into a burn chamber and fans that blow exhaust out and heat in. The pellets are made of waste material, like sawdust, that have been compressed to make cheap, renewable fuel.
State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan said the first thing to do to prevent a fire in a pellet stove is make sure it's installed properly.
"Look at the installation instructions, every stove can be a little different," he said. "It will specify the clearance around the stove and the proper venting."
Degnan said it's important to store pellets in an area with a similar temperature to the house, to prevent condensation, which leads to uneven burning of the fuel.
"Keep combustible materials clear from around the stove as well," he said. "If you put a chair or store some material right near the stove, it could heat up and eventually ignite."
Alan Guibord is the president of the Stove Shoppe in Windham, which sells pellet stoves. He said pellet stoves require proper maintenance, including cleaning out old ash.
"If it's not cleaned, it could potentially lead to a fire," Guibord said. "But most pellet stoves have a lot of safety mechanisms built in. If it hasn't been cleaned properly, the unit will simply shut down and stop burning."
He said the real danger comes from cheap and improperly installed stoves.
"There are a lot of lower-end units on the market," Guibord said. "I don't know what this particular family had, but people are buying stoves on Craigslist and at big-box stores that are really inexpensive, but might not have the best components. People have to remember they are installing fire in their home, so they have to make sure they're getting a safe product."
He said it's important for a stove to be installed by a trained technician.
"We have our own technicians that are National Fireplace Institute-certified, so they know how to do it," he said.
Guibord also said there are many positive aspects to owning a pellet stoves, which are a cost-effective way to heat a home.
"Many people come in for pellet stoves to get away from the dependency on oil and the fluctuations in costs," he said. "You're also using a renewable source of energy. Pellets, unlike oil, don't come from Saudi Arabia. A lot are manufactured in New England or even here in New Hampshire," Guibord said.
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