Fireplace Safety – Keeping Warm Without Creating a Fire Hazard

As the weather outside cools down, millions of people keep it warm indoors with a fireplace. A fire can be cozy and enjoyable or a serious safety hazard. According to a FEMA more than a third of house fires in rural regions are a result of heating fires.

Unlike other fire starters – lightening and forest fires – you have the ability to prevent a house fire before it happens. Here’s how.

Clean It Out Before Firing It Up

Build up in the chimney accounts for many home fires. It’s important to have the chimney inspected and cleaned regularly by a licensed or certified professional. Also clear the hearth of soot and debris before starting a fire.

A Fireplace Screen is a Must

Fireplace screens keep fire where it should be. Even the smallest embers and sparks can create a huge fire if they drift out of the hearth. Screens should be a metal mesh, and for the best protection choose one that also has glass doors that can be opened while the fire is going and closed once it’s put out.

Know How to Safely Start a Fire

Fireplaces can either be wood burning, gas or both. Regardless of the type of fireplace you have, here are tips for getting a fire started safely.

  • First make sure the flue is open so that smoke can escape.
  • Use dry wood for burning – moist wood will cause buildup in the chimney.
  • Put logs near the back on a grate with larger logs on the bottom.
  • Never use flammable liquids and never turn the gas all the way up.
  • Use a lighter with a long neck or long matches to light the fire.

Don’t Overdo It

Build a small fire that will burn out by the time you’re ready to leave your house or head to bed. You can always add to the fire if you want to keep it going. Building a large fire can lead to a lot of problems – logs that roll off the grate, fires that burn too long and fires that create a lot of smoke.

Don’t Restrict Air Flow

Cutting off the air supply can lead to creosote buildup. Instead keep the air inlets open.

Keep the Area Clear of Clutter

Even if you have a screen, sparks can escape whenever it’s opened. Never leave anything flammable around the fireplace. This includes blankets, papers and kindling.

Never Leave Things Lit

No fire should be left unattended – ever. If the fire is still going but you have to leave the fireplace, put it out.

There are two more things that you can do to protect your home whether or not you use a fireplace – install smoke alarms and get home insurance. Every year thousands of homes catch fire resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths, over 12,500 injuries and $7.3 billion of dollars in damage. Smoke alarms can save a person’s life and home insurance can protect your financial well-being.

Before dusting off your fireplace this fall, protect yourself and your home with proper maintenance, preparation and safety precautions.

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