Winter has arrived and it’s the perfect time to light the fireplace or wood stove for warmth and ambiance for the season. It’s important to keep in mind that not only are they useful and comforting, but they can also be hazardous. Here we share things that you can do to maintain and use your fireplace safely.
Things to Do Inside the Home
- Keep everything clean! Byproducts from fire need to be cleaned away regularly. Your fireplace, chimney, or stove should be inspected and cleaned each year by a licensed chimney sweep. They will be able to make sure everything is running efficiently and safe.
- Make sure your hearth is free from debris, furniture, rugs, holiday décor, and anything flammable.
- Adhere to manufacturers’ instructions to properly operate and vent your wood-burning or pellet stove.
- Employ the use of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them regularly as your fire alarm is your first line of defense against fire and a carbon monoxide detector can help you detect the odorless gas.
Things to Do Outside the Home
- Store your firewood 30 feet or more away from your home
- Clean leaves, pine needs, and debris from your roof and chimney
- Prune trees and their branches to keep them far from the chimney
- Use a chimney cap with a spark arrester to keep things out and prevent embers or sparks from escaping
Safely Operating Your Fireplace
Now that you know how to maintain them, let’s focus on the operation of your fireplace.
- Fully open the flue and check that it is open each time you light a fire so that it will vent correctly
- Avoid closing the damper until you are certain your fire is completely out
- Use a match or commercial firelighter, don’t use flammable liquids.
- Keep glass fireplace doors open while the fire is burning, giving the fire air for combustion and reducing creosote build-up.
- Keep metal mesh screens closed while the fire is burning to contain embers
- Make sure the wood used is dry, wet wood leads to creosote buildup and chimney fires
- Plastic can release toxic chemicals and damage the fireplace, so avoid burning them
- Properly discard Christmas trees, cardboard boxes and wrapping paper – never burn them in your fireplace
- Don’t leave your fire unattended. If you should leave the home or retire for the evening, ensure the fire is extinguished
- Dispose of ashes only after they are fully cooled, which can take a few days
- Place ashes in a covered metal container ten feet from the home
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