Chestnuts roasting in the crackling flames of your cozy fireplace. There’s nothing that more captures the essence of the winter season than a beautiful fireplace that your family can enjoy on a cold night. Aside from the heating potential and electricity savings, there is just something about a blazing hearth that screams “Home.” There are definitely some safety tips to keep in mind, however, before you throw on another log, and some tasks you should perform before you light the fire for the first time.
- If possible, crack a window anytime you’re using the fireplace, to prevent smoke or potentially toxic fumes from building up in your home.
- Double check that the damper or flue is open before lighting the fire. Keeping the damper open until the fire is completely out will keep smoke moving out of your home.
- Use only dry, well-aged pieces of wood. Wet wood or wood that is still “green” will cause more smoke and coot buildup in your chimney. Dried wood burns better, more evenly, and with less smoke.
- Smaller pieces of wood placed on a grate burn faster, and with less smoke.
- Clean out ashes from previous fires, regularly. The level of ash should be kept to an inch or less; a thicker layer of ash restricts air flow to the fire, and results in more smoke.
- Build your fires at the rear of the fireplace, and use kindling rather than a liquid fire starter to ignite the blaze.
- Have your chimney checked annually, by a professional. Even if your chimney is not due for a full cleaning, this is an important step to be sure there are no animal nests, debris, or other blockages that could cause smoke buildup.
- Keep the area around the fireplace clear of anything flammable. The rule of thumb is nothing within three feet of the flames. Furniture, drapes, books, and rugs are all potential fire hazards if within 36 inches of the fireplace.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Make sure the flames and coals are completely cool before going to bed or leaving the house. If you have to leave the room while the fire is still active or the fireplace itself is still hot, take small children with you, rather than leaving them in the room with the fire.
- Utilize safety screens in front of the fireplace to reduce the risk of accidental burns.
- Place fireplace tools and other items out of your child’s reach. Keep lighters and matches in a place where only responsible adults can reach them.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide monitors. There are even 2-in-1 units available at affordable prices these days in many areas. Test monthly, and change batteries (if the batteries are not built-in) at least once a year.
- Keep a working fire extinguisher in the room where your fireplace is located. Know how to use it, and teach older children to use it when they are ready.
- Communicate to children as early as possible the dangers of fire and heat. Make sure all family members know your fire escape plan, and perform drills regularly, if possible.
For more information on using your fireplace with children in the home, check out this website. Be safe, and have a happy holiday season!