Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are a common feature of many American homes. The increased use of these toasty devices in winter means that homeowners must revisit essential fireplace safety each year and engage in responsible operation alongside smoke detectors from a home security system.
Fires caused by fireplaces are not unusual and the United States Fire Administration suggests that a common reason for out-of-control fires is a buildup of dangerous soot and creosote.
Using Preventative Measures
One of the best ways a homeowner can reduce fire danger from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves is by taking steps to keep the fireplace clean in the off-season as well as during the winter. In addition, the following practices help to keep a chimney clean and safe:
- Yearly inspections from a chimney expert
- Get the chimney cleaned by a professional if creosote buildup is significant
- Allow glass doors to remain open to reduce creosote buildup
- Monitor flue conditions with a thermometer to ensure appropriate temperature
Safety While Using Fireplaces
By keeping a chimney or wood-burning stove clean, fire danger is reduced; however, there are other techniques that help to reduce fire danger when the fireplace is in action.
- Clear the area of rubbish and flammable decorations
- After the fire is doused, close the doors to prevent wayward embers from sparking
- Use some type of mesh screen if glass doors aren’t already installed
- Never restrict airflow to the chimney or wood-burning stove
Inspect the Security System
A homeowner may do everything in his or her power to keep a fire from getting out of control in the fireplace, but the chance of fire danger remains. Ensuring that your home security system is outfitted with updated smoke detectors is one of the best ways to give the family a chance to escape in case a fire decides to jump out of the fireplace and into the family home.
The National Fire Protection Association suggests that two thirds of the deaths that occur due to home fires happen in a home without working smoke detectors. Companies offering home security systems can offer advice on the best placement of detectors as well as instruct homeowners on how to check batteries.
Use Appropriate Fuels
It’s not a good idea to use sources of fuel in a fireplace that aren’t recommended for burning. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) says that it’s not a good idea to use gasoline or a liquid accelerant when starting a fire. A fire that has too much gasoline poured on it might erupt so fast that the smoke detectors from the home security system will have only seconds to warn the residents that a fire has spread from the fireplace.
The HPBA also suggests that it’s a bad idea to use refuse like rolled newspaper and general trash in the fireplace as these items may burn out of control and may also create additional buildup in the chimney, which can increase fire danger.
Families who use a fireplace for the warmth and ambience on a cold winter night need to observe these important safety rules as well as homeowners who use wood-burning stoves as the primary source of heat in the home. Fire safety awareness is the best defense against an uncontrolled fireplace disaster.