Fireplace Safety

Whether it’s a crisp weekend morning or a frigid winter evening, gathering your family around a cozy fire is a great way to spend time together. With our infographic, you can ensure your family’s safety by taking a few basic precautions regarding your home fireplace.

Fireplace Safety

First, make sure that the area nearest the fireplace is free of clutter, in particular combustible items such as pillows and newspapers. Have the fireplace flue checked periodically by a licensed chimney sweep to assure safe and efficient operation. If you have small children or pets, use a safety gate to block off the fireplace, and always have an adult supervising the fire. It’s best to follow your TV manufacturer’s guidelines and not mount your television over the fireplace, as the heat generated may harm the set. A carbon monoxide detector in the room (as well as in hallways near all sleeping areas), is always a good idea but to avoid false alarms resist installing a smoke alarm near the fireplace as it’s not unusual for a properly performing fireplace to emit a small amount of smoke into the room on startup. Instead, smoke detectors should be kept in every sleeping area and on every floor of your home. Hard-wired smoke detectors are the safest option.

Your fireplace doors and damper should be open before you light the fire. In most cases, opening the damper means pulling the handle towards you but it’s always best to take a flashlight and peer up the flue to be sure the damper door fully opens, which ensures all gases are vented through the chimney. As your fire is burning, leave the glass doors open to ensure that the fire has enough air for complete combustion, which keeps creosote tar out of your chimney. To prevent embers from entering the room, keep the mesh screen closed in front of the open door. Sometimes, particularly in well insulated homes, it may be necessary to crack a window slightly to provide sufficient air to keep the smoke going up the chimney. Finally, once your fire has begun to die out you can close the glass doors to prevent air from the chimney backing out into the room as well as the heated room air from escaping during the night. This will adequately seal off the fireplace and the damper can be closed the next morning.

As far as tinder for your fire, stick to dried, cut firewood and fallen, dry tree branches. Softwoods like fir and pine burn more quickly and are better used when starting a fire, while hardwoods like maple and oak are more efficient when the fire is established and the chimney is heated. Don’t burn flammable liquids (whose vapors can explode), charcoal (which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning), moist wood (which can cause creosote), trash (which can release harmful vapors), or painted or pressure treated wood (which can emit dangerous chemicals).

Finally, once your fire has burnt out, dispose of the ashes safely. Allow the ashes to cool at least overnight (longer if possible) before disposing of them in a metal container. Moisten the ashes and keep them outside of your house, and don’t store anything else in that container. Your ashes can then be hauled away with your other garbage.

By keeping these fireplace safety tips in mind, you and your family can enjoy a warm, crackling fire and reduce your risk of a fire accident in your home.

Click here to download The Fundamentals of Family Fireplace Safety as a PDF.