Fireplace Safety

Everybody likes the sight, sound and warmth of a crackling fire in the fireplace but as with every open flame care must be taken to prevent a tragedy.

According to the United States Fire Administration, more than one third of Americans use fireplaces, woodstoves or other fuel fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes.  Heating fires account for 36% of residential home fires in rural areas every year.  Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes.

Here are a few simple rules to enjoy your fireplace safely:

  • Chimneys should be professionally inspected and cleaned each year by a CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) Certified Chimney Sweep. To locate a certified Chimney Sweep, go to the Chimney Safety Institute of America website.
  • Use a spark arrestor, which is a metal screen or cover on top of the chimney that prevents sparks from escaping and keeps birds and animals from nesting in it.
  • Always open the damper before lighting a fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool.  This will help stop the dangerous buildup of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Never use lighter fluid, gasoline or other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Clear all decorations from the mantel and sides of fireplace before lighting a fire.  This is especially important during the holiday season!  Keep a three foot clearance to combustibles.
  • Do not treat an artificial log the same as a real log.  They are usually made from sawdust and wax.  Use only one at a time and make sure to read the instructions and follow them carefully.  Never poke an artificial log as this will cause a flare up.
  • Make sure fires are out before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Build a safe fire, set logs in the rear of the fireplace and don’t overload so that logs could tumble out.
  • Always cool ashes before taking them out of the fireplace.  Place the ashes in a metal container and let them sit for several days or wet them thoroughly before disposal.
  • Review Fire Safety with your family and remind children to keep a safe distance from the fire.  Practice your home fire drill and make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries!