Ah, the picturesque cracking of a log burner, flames licking against the glass as the warm winters glow emanates from the ironworks into cosy lounge. Completing the picture is the door swinging open as chilled winter logs are brought in from the wood store outside and carefully placed on the hearth of the fire, allowing them to warm up and dry off before they find their way into the fire. Many of us will be picturing something along the lines of the photo below but there is one fatal flaw to this idyllic scene which could lead to a very serious situation should it rear its ugly head.
Although it may seem a sensible idea to dry your cold logs next to your stove before you use them in your firebox, bear in mind that the outside of your wood stove will be running around the 300 °C mark when in use. It has happened to me personally on a handful of occasions that I have turned over logs stored next to the stove I’m sweeping to find the back of the wood charred and moments away from burning. I have also received calls reporting smells of smoke in the room when using the stove which turned out to be, you guessed it, wood stored next to the appliance beginning to smoulder when it was in use – nothing wrong with the stove at all!
A wood burning stove is designed to do one job really well, burning wood. It is therefore no surprise that it is recommended to refrain from storing your logs next to your stove and instead store them behind a heat shield or far enough away from your stove that they do not pose a fire risk.
If using a heat shield, remember to leave a small air gap, around 1cm between the logs and the shield itself to allow cool air to convect between the gap, stopping your fuel overheating. If storing your fuel around the burner but wondering how far away you should be, check your stove manual for recommended safety distances but as a good rule of thumb, make sure anything flammable is 3x the diameter of the flue away from the system.
Below are a series of photos of wood stored next to stoves, caught moments before it went up in flames as well as a photo of an unfortunate situation where an elderly lady took her dog for a walk to come back to her house in flames from the wood stored directly next to the stove.