You may have heard or read about the tragic house fire that killed the Speer family of 6 last week. It was later determined that the fire was caused by the living room fireplace.
As winter weather is starting to settle in for some of us, you might be thinking about waking your fireplace up from hibernation, so we thought it would be a good time to go over some tips to make sure that you use your fireplace properly and safely.
Before You Start Using Your Fireplace
- Hire a chimney sweep. It might sound unnecessary, but soot and other debris in your chimney can block the airflow, causing dangerous fumes to build up in your home. You can find a chimney sweep near you through the Chimney Safety Institute of America's website.
- Check the outside of your chimney. If you hire a chimney sweep, he should perform this inspection for you. If you don't, then you should make sure there are no cracks or crumbling pieces in the crimney, there are no obstructions, like tree branches or bird nests, and that the chimney cap is secure to keep rain and small animals from getting in.
- Make sure the flue damper is working. It should be able to open and stay open, and shut closed. This is a vital part of the fireplace, as it allows carbon monoxide to escape through the chimney when you're using the fireplace, and prevents warm air from leaving your home when you're not using the fireplace.
- Check the inside of your chimney and firebox for obstructions and cracks. When the flue is open, you should be able to see daylight at the top of the chimney.
- Don't use charcoal or fuel. Use dry paper or wood (preferably dense, like oak), and use kindling to start the fire.
- Test the nearest fire detector in your house. Even if you plan to watch over the fireplace, the fire alarm will offer a back-up in case you fall asleep or leave the room. Ideally, make sure that the alarm can also detect carbon monoxide.
- Buy a mesh or glass guard to prevent sparks or material from leaving the fireplace.
- Instruct any children about the dangers of fire and make sure they know to keep a safe distance at all times.
When Start Using Your Fireplace
- Remember to open the flue.
- Remove any nearby decorations or rugs. Embers may leap from the fire, so you should keep anything flammable at a good distance away from the fireplace. If you have carpeting near your fireplace, there are nonflammable rugs that you can purchase to protect your floors.
- Limit how long you use the fireplace, it should not be used for longer than five hours.
- Open a nearby window to help reduce the smoke and limit the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do not leave the fire or house unattended. If you are getting tired, please extinguish the fire as soon as possible to avoid falling asleep with the fire running.
- After you extinguish the fire, wait a while to close the flue. The material in your fireplace may still be emitting gases, and you should give it some time to leave through the chimney before shutting the flue.
For more Fireplace Safety Information
For even more information about how fireplaces work, how to keep your home safe, and how to hire a chimney sweep, please head over to The Chimney Safety Institute of America's website.