By Nancy Mattia, CTW Features
A roaring wood-burning fire that keeps you and your loved ones cozy indoors is a treat when you live in a cold climate. But using a fireplace to create that toasty environment is serious business with safety rules to follow. Before lighting a fire, first check that your home’s smoke alarms work. According to the American Red Cross, having a working smoke alarm reduces your chances of dying in a fire by nearly half. Check out a few other things worth knowing if you plan to use your fireplace this winter:
You should keep the fireplace and nearby areas clean and tidy
Clean out the ashes from previous fires and open the damper before starting a new fire.
Keep anything that could accidentally feed the flames like bedding and rugs at least three feet away from the fireplace. Even clothing can be combustible if it gets too close to the fire.
Keep fire from spreading beyond the fireplace
The Red Cross advocates using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks before they can spread or jump on someone, igniting their clothing.
What you can and cannot burn
Stick to burning only seasoned dry wood. Avoid garbage, plastic, foil, wrapping paper and any chemically treated or painted wood, says the Environmental Protection Agency; those items produce noxious fumes that are dangerous and highly polluting.
A blazing fire shouldn’t be ignored
Always stay put in the room where there’s an active fire so you can monitor it. You never know what could happen—a stack of newspapers too close to the flames could catch on fire, a curious child could get burned trying to touch a flame. For the same reason, never fall asleep in front of the fireplace when it’s still active. It may seem romantic or fun for the kids to take a nap or sleep the night before the warm flames but it too is dangerous—you need to be fully aware of what’s going on in the fireplace. Put out all embers before nodding off instead of letting them peter out on their own.
Your fireplace should be professionally cleaned annually
A chimney sweep will remove creosote (an oily liquid taken from coal tar and used to preserve wood), blockages, and soot from various chimney parts including the liner and damper. Cleaning your chimney isn’t a DIY job so hire a pro certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.