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Fireplace Fire Safety Tips

Living Insights

There is nothing quite like the ambiance that a fireplace can create, with family gathered around to appreciate its warmth and pleasing light. Of course, though it may be cozy, playing with fire is dangerous, so keep these tips in mind before you light the logs.

Ventilation

If possible, keep a window cracked open while the fire is burning.

Be certain the damper or flue is open before starting a fire. Keeping the damper or flue open until the fire is out will draw smoke out of the house. The damper can be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror. Do not close the damper until the embers have completely stopped burning.

The Best Type of Wood

It is best to use dry and well-aged wood. Wet or green wood causes more smoke and contributes to soot buildup in the chimney. Dried wood burns with less smoke and more evenly. Smaller pieces of wood placed on a grate burn faster and produce less smoke as well.

The Chimney

It is important that the chimney is checked annually by a professional. Even if the chimney is not due for cleaning, it is important to check for animal nests or other blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.

Children

Minimize your child’s chance of burns from the hot glass front of some fireplaces. Safety screens can be installed to reduce the risk of burns. Make sure to put fireplace tools and accessories out of a young child’s reach and to remove any lighters and matches. Educate children as early as possible of the dangers of fires and the heat generated from them. If you leave the room while the fire is burning or the fireplace is still hot, take young children with you.

Other Precautions

  • Install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Clean out ashes from previous fires. Levels of ash at the base of the fireplace should be kept to no more than 1 inch since a thicker layer restricts the air supply to logs, resulting in more smoke.
  • Clear the areas around the fireplace of anything that is potentially flammable such as furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.

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