Fireplaces are a staple feature of many living rooms around the world. Their cozy appearance adds a relaxing effect to any home and the heat output is certainly well-appreciated during the cold winter months.
However, It’s estimated that 31% of house fires are directly caused by fireplaces, chimneys, or other poorly maintained flame fixtures. You must practice proper safety precautions when using your fireplace or wood-burning stove. It’s not enough to light a log and hope for the best. Homeowners need to keep on top of fireplace safety tips in order to ensure they have a pleasant burning season without disastrous results.
Fortunately, there are easy ways to ensure homeowners won’t see their residences going up in smoke when they start their first fire of the year.
Avoid Burning Softwood Logs
Softwood or other unseasoned logs are pieces of wood that have a high moisture content. While they can provide heat at a relatively cheap price, they also come at a very high risk to homeowners. Creosote and soot more rapidly build up when burning softwood logs and over time this can have severe consequences for any home, including chimney fires.
Therefore, it is important for homeowners to only choose dried wood and hardwood logs from a reputable provider. This will ensure that soot levels are kept to a minimum as hardwood logs will generally be delivered kiln-dried, which is safest to burn.
Use a Fire Screen
Even when using the driest of woods, it is still possible for embers to escape the fireplace and these too are very hazardous to homeowners. Fire screens provide a fire-safe barrier that helps prevent embers from escaping the fireplace without taking away from the visual appeal of a fireplace. In fact, there are many different designs for fire screens and homeowners can choose one that compliments their decor.
However, it is always wise to ensure that it is rated to provide fire protection rather than being strictly ornamental. This is an essential safety feature for you and your family, especially in homes with children and pets.
Where fire screens aren’t practical, then homeowners should consider it prudent to keep a water-based fire extinguisher close to the solid flames that they’re creating. Should the worst happen, then they will be prepared to respond with the appropriate device.
Fireplace cleaning should be as ingrained to homeownership as spring cleaning. Before the beginning of the burning season, homeowners should purchase “cleaning logs” that are available from leading hardware stores. These will release cleaning gases into the chimney that loosen stuck-on debris and soot and mostly fall to the fireplace.
These cleaning logs generally provide satisfactory levels of protection but are not a replacement for a regular inspection and cleaning from a qualified chimney sweeper. A full chimney sweep should be performed once every five to seven years depending on how frequently the fireplace is used on an annual basis.
For basic equipment, a fireplace shovel and a bristled brush are great to have around. These tools allow for easy clean-up with soot and ash starts to accumulate.
As always in the event of a fire, be sure to follow a preplanned escape route and evacuate the building from the nearest exit quickly and safely. While there is an obvious potential risk in regard to having an open flame in the home, following fire safety protocol can ensure that you and your family stay safe and warm all season long.