The fireplace provides warmth and an intimate atmosphere for gathering around a crackling fire on the hearth on cold nights. But fireplaces are also dangerous—more maiming accidents happen near open fires than by any cause of household injury in America.
Fortunately, your fireplace and chimney can be made safer with little care. Here are some suggestions from experts across America to help you make your fireplace safer.
Clear it out, so it doesn’t catch fire
Remove all combustible materials from the area around the fireplace—fireplace crannies are notorious for storing combustibles like newspapers, cloth, toys, or flammable rugs. Have a vacuum cleaner close by to quickly pick up any of those types of items if they come loose. As soon as the last log has been burned, clear any remaining ashes and additions to the ashtray.
Have your chimney professionally cleaned regularly
A well-maintained chimney will not only be safe, but it will also allow your fire to burn efficiently and produce less smoke. You should have the chimney cleaned by a professional every year or two. Just make sure you get recommendations before choosing a contractor—one that is not certified could damage your fireplace and make it more dangerous than it was before the cleaning job!
Use the fireplace properly
The rule of thumb is that all fires should be started when you plan to be home to attend them. You cannot leave a fire unattended for any length of time—even if you are going out for a brief period. Also, never let your children or pets play near an open fire.
Keep the temperature and leaks in check
Check the fireplace’s temperature gauge regularly to make sure it’s functioning properly. If you have a gas fireplace or chimney, you should also monitor it for leaks that could cause a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death by suffocation if you inhale the gas while sleeping.
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