Safety Tips for Fireplaces and Chimneys

This is the time of year when everyone that has a fireplace, wants to kick back and enjoy a nice fire. Sitting by a warm fire is a great way to relax on a cold winter day.  So now in January is a great time for a reminder about fireplace and chimney safety.

According to the latest statistics, there are over 25,000 Chimney Fires per year in the U.S. that are responsible for over 125 million dollars in property damage. The most grievous statistics relate to deaths and injuries that result from chimney fires that spread into house fires. Built up creosote is responsible for the majority of those fires.  Other culprits include deficiencies in chimney linings and structures that allow high temperatures, embers and sparks to reach combustible areas near your chimney or fireplace.

When dealing with an element as potentially dangerous as fire, knowledge is power.  Here are some simple steps you can take to help you stay safe.

Burn the Right Firewood

  • Only use seasoned firewood. It produces more heat and  it’s easier to start a fire. Wood that has been seasoned for 6 months only contains 20-25% moisture where newly cut firewood may contain up to 45%  water.
  • Never burn scrap wood, painted wood or other treated wood. They can release harmful chemicals into your home.
  • Avoid the urge to build an overly large fire. This can start a dangerous chimney fire from the extra soot and creosote.

Have Your Chimney Inspected & Cleaned Annually

If you burn wood in your fireplace, it is critical to have the chimney inspected yearly by a professional chimney sweep.  Put it on your calendar to have your chimney checked every spring, and you won’t be hit with this expense in the winter as you prepare for the holidays. A yearly professional inspection can mean the difference between safely using your fireplace and disaster. It is also equally important to have your chimney thoroughly cleaned each year.  Many people have a professional chimney sweep do a cleaning along with their annual inspection; however, the average homeowner can save some money and do their own cleaning. The important part of the cleaning is removing, not just the ash and soot, but the built-up cresolite on the interior chimney walls. If doing it yourself, you’ll need a set of brush rods to reach the entire length of the chimney.

Here Are 5 Additional Tips to Help Keep You Safe

  1. Never use flammable materials to start the fire.
  2. Be sure you have a fire screen in place to catch sparks. If you have glass fireplace doors, be sure to keep them open when burning a fire.
  3. Be sure to keep the fireplace area clear. Don’t place furniture, pillows or other flammable materials within 36 inches of the fireplace.
  4. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.
  5. Keep tree branches at least 15 feet away from the top of the chimney and install a chimney cap to keep out debris and animals.

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