As the temperature outside dips below the freezing point and the heating costs rise to unaffordable, families may resort to setting a fire in the living room fireplace.
Fireplace safety is not only protecting your family and home from a fire, but controlling dangerous smoke emissions.
According to a press release, Gerry Crafton, Brazil Aire Serv said, "The air we breath indoors can be more dangerous than the air outdoors. But if you follow some simple steps, you can still curl up on the couch and enjoy your cozy fire without worrying about indoor pollutants."
Before chopping and gathering your winter heat, there are some safety tips to ensure a safe and warm winter season.
- Your chimney should be inspected for defects annually and cleared of debris and creosote build-up from previous fires. Contact a professional chimney sweep to perform these services. A dirty fireplace can lead to chimney fires and air pollution.
- Have a cap installed on the top of your chimney to keep birds and squirrels from building nests that can block the chimney. The cap will also keep rain and leaves from falling into the chimney.
- Make sure smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are installed and in working order.
- Clear the area around the fireplace of furniture, blankets, books and other flammable items to keep them from catching on fire and ultimately burning down your home. Make sure the outside of the chimney is clear of tree branches and power lines.
Before you light
- If using natural wood, keep cut logs outdoors, away from your home, off the ground and covered. When selecting logs to burn, bring inside only enough needed for each fire. This will prevent insects in or on the wood from entering your home. Try manufactured logs that are made to prevent insect infestation and reduce creosote build-up.
- When selecting wood to burn, choose seasoned wood, or wood that has been allowed to dry 6-12 months. Seasoned wood contains less than 20 percent water content, burns easier and reduces harmful smoke that can go into your home. Using manufactured logs will eliminate this problem.
- Do not burn trash, rolled newspapers, painted or varnished wood, charcoal or plastic. Toxic smoke may be released that could harm your family.
- Remove old ashes from the bottom of your fireplace. Store ashes in a tightly-sealed, noncombustible container away from your house.
- Use an iron fireplace grate to hold logs or other fireplace fuel in place. This will keep logs from rolling out of the fire and onto the floor.
- Open the damper to allow enough air to feed the fire.
- Build a fire that fits your fireplace. A large fire that gets too hot can crack your chimney and get out of control.
Starting your fire
- Do not use gasoline or any other accelerant to help start the fire. This may lead to an uncontrolled fire or your clothing could catch on fire.
- When using newspaper to start a fire, lightly crumple and insert into areas between logs. Be sure not to use pages with colored inks, because they may contain hazardous chemicals that may harm your family.
Safety while burning
- Keep children and pets away from the fire.
- Use a fireplace screen to reduce the number of hot ashes discharged from the fire. Extinguish ashes that find their way out immediately.
- If the fireplace screen has glass doors on it, keep them open while burning to prevent cracking the glass.
- Do not close the damper or glass doors until fire has burnt out and embers have stopped burning.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Do not go to bed or leave the fireplace with a fire burning.
To ensure the safety of your family and your possessions, use common sense when fire is involved. Devastating fires can result from improper fireplace use. Don't think that a fire could never happen in your home. Your family could suffer the loss of prized possessions, a place to live or even a loved one. If a contained fire gets out of control, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on fireplace safety, contact a professional or log onto the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association Web site at www.hpba.org.