The cold, rainy weather and holiday season may have you thinking about roasting chestnuts on an open fire.
While some folks may be using natural gas-fueled fireplaces, some still use wood-burning fireplaces. The U.S. Fire Administration says heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year.
Emergency Management officials have some reminders to make your fireplace and fire safe:
- Have your fireplace cleaned by a professional. A chimney sweep will clean out the entire chimney. Many use a high-powered vacuum so that there is no soot or dust entering the home. Some sweeps also offer a series of inspections of the chimney, interior flue and checks of attic spaces for any damaged areas that will need repair.
- Choose firewood carefully. Seasoned firewood — wood that has been allowed to dry out for at least six months — is the best and safest option. Buying one or two cords of wood may take the average fireplace user through the season. Wood can also be purchased at supermarkets or picked up free in different areas.
- Avoid wood from trees that have just been cut down. It likely contains high levels of moisture that will result in more smoke than burn power, and could lead to creosote deposits forming on the inside of the chimney.
- Synthetic logs are also available, but use caution because they may burn unevenly and put out highter levels of carbon monoxide. Follow directions on the packages of these products carefully.
- Inspect your fireplace screen or guard to ensure it can safely protect against embers escaping the fireplace. In homes where there are young children, an added barrier may be needed in front of the fireplace to prevent little hands from touching the hot screen.
- Remember to open the chimney flue before starting any fire. This allows fresh air to feed the fire and will enable smoke to exit the home. Failure to open the flue can result in smothering, dirty smoke filling the home quite quickly. The flue should be closed after the fire is completely extinguished so that animals and outside debris don’t enter the home via the opening.
- Have a metal container for removing and storing hot ashes handy. Embers and ashes can stay hot for quite some time, so they should be placed outdoors, ideally far from the home so they don’t set anything ablaze.
- Educate household members about the rules of fireplace use. Do not burn anything but wood in the fire to avoid the emission of toxic fumes or dangerous embers. All it takes is one stray ember to start a huge fire. Also, improper fuel materials may lead to the buildup of flammable creosote on the chimney.
- Do not leave a fire unattended. If you have a fire going in the fireplace, be sure someone is keeping an eye on it. Be sure the fire is out before you go to bed.