The joy of sitting by a cozy fire glowing in your fireplace is a pleasure that should be mixed with an awareness of potential hazards. The following fireplace safety tips will help to keep your family safe, and could prevent you from having to pay the high cost of property damage or other potential losses caused by a house fire.
Before Using Your Fireplace:
Functioning smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are proven life savers. Install these appliances in recommended locations before using your fireplace. There have been many thousands of times when a family uses a fireplace and later goes to sleep, thinking everything is fine. There are many things that can go wrong that could cause the home to begin filling with smoke, and smoke inhalation can be deadly.
One of the hazards that can come along with using a fireplace is carbon monoxide poisoning. This gas is known as the “Silent Killer,” since it is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. A carbon monoxide detector is absolutely essential because once symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are detected, it is often too late. The way homes are built today, being tightly constructed, reverse drafts are not uncommon; and reverse drafts are the most common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If the fireplace and chimney are not properly maintained or if they are outright neglected, it can be very dangerous to light a fire. Research shows that about half of all fires caused by the fireplace and chimney got started because the chimney had not been cleaned or inspected by a fireplace technician. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that at least once per year a chimney technician remove creosote buildup and inspect the chimney for signs of possible damage. There could be other obstructions in the chimney, besides layers of creosote.
Be sure that the person you hire to clean your chimney is qualified. Only a trained professional can give your home the type of inspection and cleaning that can guarantee safe use of your fireplace. Unfortunately, many people take advantage of the fact that the chimney cleaning industry is unregulated. They will offer great discounted prices to clean or repair your chimney when they actually don’t intend to provide valid services. It could put your family and home at risk to trust your chimney and fireplace to an unqualified person who doesn’t have the proper tools or dedication for the job. Check to see that the person you hire is certified and has a legitimate company that is recommended by others in the community.
Before starting a fire, be sure that there are no combustible materials too near the fireplace. In addition to embers and sparks potentially flying out of the fireplace when you are tending the fire, extreme heat from the fire can cause flammable materials to ignite. All combustible materials should be at least two feet away from the fireplace.
While Using Your Fireplace:
For safety’s sake, use your fireplace the way it is intended to be used. Burn seasoned firewood and ignition materials that are safe, such as a newspaper lit with a match or lighter. NEVER use gasoline, kerosene, or any other type of accelerants in the fireplace because it can either explode and cause severe burns or cause the fire to get too hot too quickly.
Because it is extremely dangerous to do so, DO NOT burn the following materials in your fireplace: Christmas trees, treated wood (wood that is stained, painted, or glued), garbage, or yard debris such as leaves.
Do not leave your fireplace unattended for long periods of time. In addition, you should never overload the fireplace, particularly if the fire isn’t being watched. On overly hot or overloaded fire can cause a chimney fire in which the creosote inside of it catches fire. Chimney fires are extremely hazardous and can result in out-of-control house fires, whether caused by the roof catching fire or from a breach in the chimney lining which causes combustible materials to ignite.
We always recommend the use of a Fireplace Screen (also known as Fire Guard) in front of your fire, to prevent hot sparks from starting a house fire.
After Using Your Fireplace:
Ash should be cleaned from the fireplace regularly, but handling ashes can be very dangerous. Many house fires have been started by mishandling of ashes. The NFPA and firefighters recommend that ashes be disposed of by first placing them in a covered, non-combustible container (see our range of baskets & holders).
Never set an ash container on a wooden porch or deck. Live embers can be hot enough to start a fire days after being removed from the fireplace. Douse ashes with water and store them a safe distance from your home before disposing of them.
You could alternatively use a Stovax Vacuum Ash Cleaner. Be sure to always allow the appliance to cool before carrying out any cleaning or maintenance. You can then use this device to vacuum any remaining ash and debris from inside and around the fireplace.
Get full enjoyment from your top rated wood burning fireplace by following these six safety steps, and spend your time relaxing by the fire instead of worrying about potential fireplace issues.