An annual chimney inspection by a professional is definitely the first step to enjoying your fireplace safely, but there are other things you can do to keep your fireplace safer during fall and winter. If used recklessly, your fireplace can become the number one fire hazard in your home.

Don’t Burn Trash

You might think it’s okay to use your fireplace like a trash can in your living room, but you should never throw any trash into your fireplace. Plastics, wrapping paper, magazines and any paper printed on with colored ink is unsuitable to burn in your fireplace. These things can all give off toxic chemical while burning. To be safe, you should only ever burn logs in your fireplace. Avoid using old magazines to start your fire. Ideally, you should only use things like dry tree bark, corn cobs and pine cones for tinder.

Don’t Use Green Wood in Your Fireplace

Much like plastic and other trash, green wood isn’t appropriate for burning in your fireplace. Green wood gives off more smoke while burning. This causes soot and creosote to build up in your chimney much faster than if you were to use dried logs. If you want to reduce soot and creosote buildup even more, you should aim to use woods like birch, oak or hickory.

Start Your Fires Right

Starting a fire without gasoline, charcoal lighters and other highly flammable substances is more difficult. However, you’ll be willing to put in the extra effort once you realized how much safer it is. Never use highly flammable things to start fires in your fireplace. Not only do many of these things give off vapors that can explode, it’s also much easier to burn down your house in an accident. If you use a can of gasoline by your fireplace to light your fires with, the whole can could catch fire by accident and burn down your entire house. You might think it won’t happen, but accidents can happen more easily than you think. One wrong move with these substances will place you at great risk.

The safe way to start a fire is by using dried organic materials, like tree bark and sticks to light your fire. It takes longer, but you’ll significantly reduce the risk of burning down your house.

Keep the Area Around Your Fireplace Clear

If you’re using your fireplace on a regular basis, you should keep the area around it clear of anything flammable. Don’t keep your stack of wood right next to the fireplace, it should be at least a few feet from where the fire burns. Before you light a fire, you should check that there aren’t any children’s or dog toys, and that anything else that could potentially catch fire isn’t near the fireplace.

Another area you should keep clear of anything if you’re using your fireplace is the mantel. It’s okay to have decorations on the mantel when there isn’t a fire burning. But before you light a fire, you should always clear the mantel entirely. During the fall and winter, when you’re regularly using your fireplace, it’s best to temporarily move all your decorations to somewhere else in the house.

Always Open the Damper or Flue

Your chimney is meant to channel smoke and toxic gas from your fireplace so it will flow outside. To avoid lung problems and carbon monoxide poisoning, it should be open while there’s a burning fire.

Always open the damper before lighting a fire. To check that the damper is open, look up your chimney using a flashlight or mirror. Even once the fire has died, the damper should be kept open while the embers are still glowing. The damper can be closed only once everything has turned to ash and nothing appears to be glowing anymore.

Always Have a Fire Extinguisher on Hand

It doesn’t matter how safe you try to be while using your fireplace, having a fire extinguisher somewhere nearby is still essential if you want to practice good fire safety. Having a fire extinguisher could help you put out a small fire in no time. Remember, even fires that seem small can burn down your house. A big fire can start from a single spark. Always better to be safe than sorry.

Take Preventative Measures

Besides for having your fire extinguisher where you can easily reach it when there’s a fire, you should also make use of other safety measures available. Your fireplace should have a screen in front of it to keep you safe. Also have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed so you can spot potential danger as soon as possible. Remember to regularly change the batteries in your detectors and try to test them at least monthly.

Safety Around the Fire

The last safety measure is up to you. To be safe whiles there’s a fire burning, you have to see to it that you’re careful enough to avoid unnecessary hazards. When you have a fire burning, it’s good to leave a window only slightly open for air to escape. Never leave your fireplace unattended while it’s burning (This means you can’t go to bed, or run a quick errand if nobody will stay behind to take care of the fire.) Also remember to always clean out ashes before you light a new fire.

Fires can be very relaxing, but you should never forget that they can be equally, or even more dangerous than they are comforting. To safely use your fireplace, it’s recommended that you have your chimney inspected regularly by a professional chimney sweep registered with the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Do you know how often you need to have your chimney cleaned? Check out our Knoxville Office!