As temperatures begin to drop and the chill of winter hits the air, home heaters and fireplaces will begin to see consistent use. With a frosted window, there is no better feel than the warmth of your home. For homes with functional fireplaces, the warmth and crackle of the fireplace on a cold night is often a cheap alternative to conventional heating. There are, however, several things that must be considered prior to lighting the first fire of the season. Following these safety tips will insure your family is not only cozy and warm this winter, but will also insure they are safe.
- Have your chimney inspected every year. A CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) certified inspector will insure your chimney’s cap, liner, and flue are free from damage and will function safely and efficiently.
- Utilize caution when building your fire. Stack logs toward the rear of the firebox and use a metal grate to allow for proper airflow and to act as a restraint to keep logs from rolling out of the fireplace.
- NEVER use gasoline or other petroleum based accelerants to start the fire. Wood should not be exposed to these accelerants. Exposure can lead to explosion and uncontrollable fire spread.
- Use a screen in front of the fireplace. The screen will provide some protection from embers ‘popping’ out of the fireplace and onto combustible items such as carpeting or furniture.
- Keep furniture and other combustibles away from the fireplace. This includes items on the hearth or mantel as well.
- PROPERLY discard ashes! Each year, fire departments across America respond to house fires attributed to improperly discarded ashes. Ashes should ALWAYS be discarded into a metal ash can and away from combustibles outdoors until it is certain they are no longer smoldering. Ashes can smolder for several hours and depending on the volume, depth, and available unburned fuel – can be hot enough to ignite a fire if disposed of before they are totally cooled.
- Install or test existing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Proper working detectors are an insurance policy for advanced warning of a hazardous condition with your fireplace.
- Never leave a burning fireplace unattended unless the manufacturer advises the fireplace is designed to do so (ie. steel or glass doors that may be secured).