Fireplace Safety Tips for you and your Family
Courtesy of the U.S. Fire Administration, more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels. Almost a third of residential home fires are caused by heating fires in rural areas every year. These fires are mostly due to buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. It is important to think about maintenance before lighting a fire for function, safety, and efficiency. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) encourages you to practice the following fire safety steps to keep home fires burning safely.
Fire safety is your personal responsibility. Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean
- Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified specialist.
- Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials. We all like the idea of a decorative and welcoming Christmas fireplace – stocking hanging in a row – but think wisely how you decorate this year.
- Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney. Never restrict air supply to fireplaces.
- Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. The screen helps keep embers from getting out.
- Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.
Safely Burn Fuels
- Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
- Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
- When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can; douse and saturate the ashes with water.
Protect the Outside of Your Home
- Stack firewood outdoors at least 30 feet away from your home.
- Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.
- Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
- Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.
Protect the Inside of Your Home
- Installsmokealarmsoneverylevel of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.
- Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.
- Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.
- It is important to talk about fireplace safety to your children as well. Explain why they shouldn’t play on the fireplace while a fire is going and plan a fire escape strategy together. This holiday season why not run through your fire escape strategy like your kids would at school. Fire drills work at school, why shouldn’t they work at home?