Many New Jerseyans are burning wood right now in stoves and fire places to keep warm and reduce the cost of their natural gas or oil heating bill. But the Department of Environmental Protection has some advice about the practice.

DEP spokeswoman Caryn Shinske says protect air quality and stay safe.

"If you are chopping your own wood and planning to use it in your home, you do need to allow the wood to season before burning it," she said.

"Seasoning means that you allow the wood to sit outdoors for at least six months. That is enough time to allow moisture to evaporate from the wood. And when the moisture is out of the wood, the wood burns more efficiently."

Move ashes around to keep air flowing around the fire and keep the stove or fireplace clean. And keep flammables a safe distance from the fire.

Some other tips from the DEP:

— Start your fire by using dry kindling or newspaper.
— For those who use manufactured logs, which you can buy at supermarkets or other places, make sure that those are 100% compressed sawdust.
— Have your chimneys cleaned by a certified chimney sweep. And you may also want to consider using a HEPA filter.
— If you are storing wood indoors, make sure that it is a safe distance from fireplaces or stoves.
— Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby and keep anything flammable far away from any wood-burning appliance.

Joe Cutter is the senior news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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