Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chimney and Fireplace Safety

This year, my family is planning to utilize our gas fireplace more in order to turn down our furnace thermostat. Our hope is that the room we spend our time in (the same one with the fireplace) will stay warm for us while we are in it, and we won't waste energy or money heating the parts of the house that we won't be in as much.

House fires are a scary thought, and I have had the unfortunate experience of knowing several people who have lost their homes (one this month) because of a house fire. One preventable type of house fire is that which occurs because of your chimney and fireplace not being cared for and cleaned properly.

When you burn wood in a fireplace, as it burns it releases ash and other matter that over time collects along the walls of your chimney. This ash can get hot again and ignite if a part of your fire pops and sends a flaming ember to something that can catch fire.

The items you have on the hearth and just beyond your fireplace are also hazards if the wood would crack and send a burning ember out of the fireplace. The safest bet when burning a fire is to make sure there is nothing near the fireplace that could catch fire-Christmas decorations included!

Here are some tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:

Keep Fireplaces Clean

  • Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
  • 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.
  • 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. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.
  • 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 and any other nearby buildings. 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


  • Install smoke alarms on every level 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.


  1. Having a fireplace is a good addition to our house, but we must keep in mind that having one entails some responsibility as well. We must use it properly so it won’t bring any harm or pose a threat to our safety and of our house.

  2. Be responsible when using your fireplace! Always keep your fireplace clean and don’t forget to clean out the ashes or else it might bring health problems as well.


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