Fireplace Safety

As the cold weather approaches, not much is more comforting than sitting around a warm, glowing fire.  The warmth and the lovely smell of burning wood is something that many people enjoy and look forward to in the winter season.  However, it is important to remember that  fireplaces have their risks and need to be properly handled and maintained to ensure their safety.  Always complete a fireplace safety check at the beginning of the season and be sure to have the chimney swept out at least once a year to get rid of any soot or debris build up.

Here are some other things to check in order to keep the risk to you and your home as low as possible.

  • Cap the chimney
    • This will help to protect the flue from rain, debris and animals from entering.
    • A cap can also protect the roof by trapping embers and sparks which could begin a fire.
  • Inspect the chimney for any cracks
    • It is important to have the chimney inspected before lighting the first fire of the year.
    • If there is any sign of cracking, missing mortar or loose bricks, they should be repaired immediately.
  • Clear any overhang
    • It is a fire hazard to have tree limbs overhanging the chimney.  If you have any, they need to be cut back before using the fireplace.
    • Tree limbs may also restrict a proper air flow
  • Check for creosote buildup
    • Creosote is a byproduct of wood burning and when it travels up the chimney and mixes with cooler air it will condense and stick to the inside of the chimney.
    • Creosote is highly flammable so it is essential to have your chimney cleaned regularly to prevent a chimney fire.
  • Burn the right type of wood
    • Hardwoods are best such as birch, oak and maple.  They release less creosote than soft woods like pine and cedar.
  • Check that the damper is working properly
    • The damper should be able to open and close without issue.  Having a working damper and knowing how to use it correctly is critical to safely having fires.

It is also ideal to have a good fireplace guard.  This will prevent embers from escaping and beginning a fire.  You should be sure to keep your fire small and always build the fire towards the back of the fireplace.  Never use any kind of flammable liquids as this can be very dangerous.

 Always remember that coals from the fire can stay hot for many hours or even days after the fire has been put out so make sure that they are cooled before disposing of them.  Getting rid of them too quickly can cause them to reignite.  Last but definitely not least, it is crucial to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.  Frequently test them to ensure they are working and regularly change the batteries, at least twice a year.

Fireplaces are enjoyable but dangerous if not cared for and used properly.  Fires spread so quickly, the damage can be devastating and of course there is the potential loss of life.  Responsible usage and maintenance will ensure the enjoyment of your fireplace in the safest way possible.

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