Avoid Winter Fire Hazards Around Chimney & Fireplace
During a Wisconsin winter, there is no better way to end the day than besides a roaring fire in your fireplace at home. Making use of your fireplace during the winter is also a great way to cut down on your energy costs by using it to zone heat your living area. The down side of using your fireplace is that it can increase the risk of a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Avoid winter fire hazards by following these 6 simple rules.
#1 – Keep the area around the fireplace clear of combustibles.
Stray sparks can fly out of the fireplace at any time. If you leave combustible materials—such as rugs, furniture, decorations, reading materials, and toys—by the fireplace there is a chance that they could catch fire. It is a good rule of thumb to keep any flammable materials at least 3 feet away from the fireplace.
#2 – Only burn hard, seasoned firewood.
The most efficient and cleanest burning fuel to burn in your wood fireplace is seasoned hardwood. Seasoned wood (which is any wood that has been cut and dried for at least six months) has a lower moisture content because the moisture in the logs has had time to evaporate. The lower moisture content helps it to burn better than freshly cut wood. Hardwoods like oak and maple burner hotter and more completely than soft woods like pine or cedar.
Homeowners have told us about burning many different materials in their fireplaces from gift wrapping paper to charcoal. We highly advice against this. Burning materials like that can release dangerous chemicals into the air that can cause respiratory issues for you. It is especially dangerous if you or someone in your home has asthma. Burning charcoal in a fireplace produces a large amount of carbon monoxide (CO), a dangerous gas that is odorless and tasteless. Using charcoal to fuel your fireplace increases the risk of CO poisoning even when the damper is open. The best way to avoid these risks is to stick to burning only hard, seasoned wood.
#3 – Put a protective barrier in front of the fire.
Placing a gate around your fireplace prevents hot embers from jumping out of the fireplace and burning anyone nearby. It also stops children and pets from getting too close to the flames. Having glass doors installed on your fireplace adds an additional layer of protection. If your fireplace does not have doors, be sure to always close the metal curtains on the fire while it is burning. The curtains act as a spark catcher.
#4 – Make sure an adult is watching the fire at all times.
Even with a gate in front of your fireplace, there is a chance that a curious child or pet could be harmed by getting to close to the fire. An adult should always be in the room when a fire is burning and keep a watchful eye to ensure that no one gets injured.
Protecting inquisitive little ones isn’t the only reason to keep an eye on the fire. There is always a chance that the fire could grow out of control or that a stray ember could ignite something nearby. You will have more of a chance to stop the fire from spreading or harming anyone by making sure the fire is always attended to.
#5 – Always open the damper before lighting a fire.
Carbon monoxide exposure can be deadly. One of the ways to protect yourself and loved ones from inhaling too much carbon monoxide is by opening the damper before you light a fire in the fireplace. The damper is a vent in the fireplace. When it is closed, it prevents drafts by stopping cold air in the chimney from entering your home. When it is open, it allows smoke to escape up the chimney. If the damper is closed when you light a fire in the fireplace, the smoke and carbon monoxide produced by the fire will be unable to escape. Taking a minute to open the damper before you light a fire will prevent this.
#6 – Hire a professional to clean and inspect your fireplace and chimney.
Whenever you burn fuel in your fireplace, it produces creosote. This chemical compound, that is a byproduct of the combustion process, is extremely flammable and builds up along the walls of a chimney. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that all homeowners with a fireplace have it cleaned and inspected at least once a year because it has proven to be the most effect way to reduce house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by fireplaces.
Need to have your chimney cleaned and inspected? Give us a call! The CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep technicians on our team are here to help.
If you are considering upgrading your fireplace with a fireplace insert to increase its heat output and energy efficiency, swing by Burlington Fireplace to see our large selection of wood, pellets, gas and electric inserts!