Fireplaces can be picturesque additions to homes, bringing warmth, cheer and light to living rooms and bedrooms. But they can also be dangerous. A large percentage of residential fires are caused by fireplaces and wood stoves, especially in rural areas where fireplaces are relied upon to heat homes. Here are a few tips for fireplace safety all year round.
Make sure your fireplace is clean. Keeping a clean fireplace or woodstove is key to fireplace safety. Get your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis by a certified chimney expert—otherwise creosote build-up could cause a chimney fire. Make sure the area around your hearth is clear of decorations, debris, and other flammable materials. Always keep air inlets open on woodstoves and allow unrestricted air flow to fireplaces; lack of adequate oxygen hastens creosote build-up.
Keep sparks from flying. Use fireplace safety glass or a fireplace metal screen to prevent sparks from flying out of the fireplace and onto the floor. Fires can cast sparks a considerable distance outside the safety of the hearth, where it’s easy for them to ignite flammable materials including cloth, wood and paper.
Build fires safely. Avoid building large, roaring fires using numerous logs; these are typically the types of fires that cause large amounts of creosote to build up, and they’re also at larger risk of sending sparks into the room or flaring up too large for safety if the pile of wood shifts while it’s burning. Don’t burn soft, wet woods—these cause creosote build-up. Instead, use seasoned hardwoods as fuel. Place a small pile of logs at the back of the fireplace on a supporting grate—don’t burn a fire on the floor of the fireplace or near the front of the hearth. Avoid using flammable liquids to start a fire—these are extremely volatile.
Extinguish fires correctly. It’s best to let your fire burn down to ashes, then soak the ashes in water before placing them in a fireproof metal container outside your home. Never let a fire burn unattended, and always make sure your fire is completely out before you go to bed or go outside the house.
Store your firewood safely. Firewood should be kept outside your home and at least ten metres away from your house. Keep pine needles, leaves and other debris away from your chimney, smoke vents or flue, and cover your chimney opening with a mesh screen to prevent sparks from escaping.
Fireplaces seem cozy and domestic—but fires are unpredictable and can never be entirely controlled. Fireplace safety entails building small, controllable fires; preventing sparks from flying with fireplace safety glass or a mesh screen; and keeping your fireplace area clean and free of flammable debris or decorations. In addition, it’s crucial to make sure your chimney is free of creosote build-up—so have it inspected once a year. With these fireplace safety precautions, you should be able to keep your fireplace burning warmly and safely at all times.