There’s nothing like the feeling of sitting next to a warm fireplace, especially when the weather starts to get cold. With fall and winter rolling in, people are starting to light up those fireplaces. Before you start enjoying the crackling heat and dancing lights of the fire, here are some tips for indoor fireplace safety:
1. A Clean Fireplace is a Safe Fireplace
This is a big one—keeping your fireplace clean helps prevent chimney fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 30% of heating fires are a result of unclean chimneys and equipment. This is due to a flammable substance that is released from wood when it is burning, called creosote. Cleaning your chimney once a year or having it inspected helps reduce any risks. Using dry wood will keep your fireplace cleaner. Seasoned firewood holds only around 20% water, compared to freshly cut wood which can contain more than twice that amount. When wet wood burns it releases more smoke and causes creosote to build up faster.
2. Proper Use of the Damper
A damper is a piece of equipment on the fireplace that controls the airflow in the chimney. The damper should be opened before the fire is lit, and should only be closed after the fire has been completely extinguished. Opening the damper before lighting the fire ensures that the smoke will flow up the chimney. When the fireplace isn’t being used, the damper should remain closed.
3. Contain Sparks and Embers
To control sparks and embers, stack logs far back in the fireplace. This will help keep the embers from falling out onto the carpet. Using a fireplace safety screen in front of that crackling fire will also help contain them. Also, placing a nonflammable rug by the fireplace will prevent any melting or damage to your carpeting.
4. Control the Burn
While it may be fun to throw wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, or foam containers into the fireplace, these materials can cause flames to burn high and release toxic particles and smoke. Only wood or manufactured logs should be burned, and just a few logs at a time. A roaring fire is exciting, but a low, controlled fire is safer.