A nice crackling fire in your fireplace is the perfect backdrop for family game night or a movie watching marathon. It can also be an additional source of heat for the family on chilly days. While your fireplace can be a warm and cozy comfort during the winter season, it is also an amenity that requires responsible handling and great care. Safety is paramount.
Starting a fire seems pretty simple, right? Just throw in some wood, light it, and you’re done. There are steps in the process. However, to start and enjoy your fire in the safest way possible, there are a few more steps that are often overlooked. These frequently ignored steps are important to take into consideration to prevent accidents, injuries and complications to your health, from improperly managed fireplace fires.
The four key steps to operating your fireplace safely for your family are:
- Use proper fire starting techniques
- Clean your fireplace thoroughly
- Consider replacing an old fireplace
- Keep your home fire safe
Use proper fire starting techniques
When you are starting your fire, you may be tempted to use flammable liquids to do so. Avoid this completely. A flammable liquid can create a highly combustible effect that can cause the fire to start uncontrollably and spread outside of the fireplace. This can result in your carpet, or any other flammable or conductive material nearby, catching on fire and spreading the fire throughout your home. The best way to light your fire is with a long stem match or long stem lighter and a piece of newspaper. As far as the wood you are burning, place it all the way in the back of the fireplace. Furthermore, only use completely dry seasoned hardwood. Wood that is soft and moist could cause creosote to accumulate in your chimney and this is a high risk factor for chimney fires. The chimney fire can then quickly spread to the remainder of your home. Creosote is an oily liquid preservative that is added to firewood to keep it in tact. It is even more highly flammable when it builds up in larger quantities. The United States National Fire Academy offers a helpful video series on how to start and maintain your fireplace fire safely.
Clean your fireplace thoroughly
Due to the buildup of creosote and soot, which increases flammability, you also want to be sure to clean your fireplace frequently. Sometimes, families light fire after fire, thinking that the buildup in the fireplace is simply the way it should be. The fireplace does not have to be perfectly clean like a new surface. However, it does need to be thoroughly cleaned, so that there is not a buildup of previous fire residue.
Consider replacing an old fireplace
If your fire place is very old, consider replacing it with a new one that meets modern fire safety and environmental protection standards. There are now many options available for fireplaces that look nice, yet also have features that prioritize your family’s safety. In fact, there are even some fireplaces that are certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as being environmentally safe, which means they are likely to be safer for your family overall. These EPA-certified low emission fireplaces produce an average of 90 percent less smoke per hour than old, outdated, uncertified fireplace models. An expert fireplace retailer with knowledge of the many options will be able to help you identify the new fireplace that is going to be suitable for the ambience of your home and best for the safety of your family.
Keep your home fire safe
To keep your home fire safe, never burn anything in your fireplace other than wood and the small bit of paper you use to light your fire. Trash, stacks of paper, and other materials should be disposed of in other ways, not burnt. Burning them can create toxins in the air that are detrimental to breathe in and unsafe for you and your family.
Also, always keep a fire extinguisher on every level of your home and make sure everyone knows where to find the extinguishers. In addition, make sure that every level of your home has a smoke detector that is working properly. Inspect them every quarter of the year to be sure.
Last but not least, have a fireplace and fire safety plan for you and your family. Make sure each family member, children and adults, knows what to do and understands the proper procedures regarding the fireplace.