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A BLAZING fire can be good for the soul but bad for the lungs, at least if you do it wrong.

“Many of the same components that are in cigarette smoke are in wood smoke,” said Nancy Alderman, president of Environment & Human Health, a public-health organization.

To avoid breathing those toxins, it helps to perfect the art of the low-smoke fire. For this, you need the right wood, a new approach to fire building and, perhaps, some insulation. Hardwoods, like maple, oak and apple, are less likely to produce smoke than soft woods, like pine or cedar.

But hardwood will smoke if it’s not cured for at least six months before burning, said John Gulland, writer and manager of WoodHeat.org. “Low moisture content and correct piece size are more important than species,” he said.

Prevent backdrafts by clogging drafts elsewhere. Ashley Eldridge, the director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America, said if your attic door isn’t properly sealed and insulated, it can draw air from everywhere else, including your fireplace.

Also, burn hot fires. Because the traditional kindling-at-the-bottom approach typically leads to smoldering, Mr. Gulland suggested a top-down fire design, with heavier pieces at the bottom and kindling at the top. This gives kindling more air to burn, and helps produce a hot fire more quickly, and with less smoke.

Source: NY Times