Tips for safely operating your fireplace or stove

If you rely on a fireplace or heating stove to keep your home warm during the cold weather months, it’s important that you take measures to keep your home safe from the risk of a fire caused by that fireplace or stove. Fireplaces, stoves and chimneys account for 42 percent of home fires. We’ve compiled our best list of tips to keep your fireplace or stove burning safely.

Have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually.

chimney inspection - Royal Oak MI - FireSide Hearth and Home

Each time you burn a fire, creosote builds up within your chimney. The highly flammable substance is a leading cause of chimney fires. To dramatically lower your risk of a chimney fire, have your chimney cleaned annually. In addition to removing dangerous creosote, your chimney sweep will examine your chimney for weaknesses or other problems that could lead to a chimney fire.

Practice regular maintenance.

In addition to annual chimney cleaning, your fireplace or heating stove requires regular maintenance. Read your owners’ manual to determine what cleaning needs to take place monthly or annually, and follow those directions. Clogged vents and other dirty components of your stove or fireplace can cause a hazard.

Create a “safe zone” around your fireplace or stove.

Burning embers can escape from virtually any type of fireplace, and allowing flammable items to get too close to even a gas fireplace can cause a fire hazard. Create a “safe zone” of about three feet around your fireplace, and keep that area clear of any flammable materials, including blankets, pillows, furniture and papers. Make sure that nothing is dangling from your mantle and getting too close to your fireplace or stove.

Use a fireplace screen.

If you have an open-hearth fireplace, make sure that you have a screen in place each time a fire is burning. The screen will keep popping embers from flying out of your fireplace and will prevent pets or children from accidentally touching the fire.

Only burn the materials intended for your fireplace.

Never burn anything in your fireplace that wasn’t meant as fuel. Paper and cardboard can cause flare ups that could lead to a chimney fire. Other items like trash, plastic and coal can let of deadly fumes. The wood from Christmas trees has not been properly seasoned and isn’t safe for a fireplace.

Install a chimney cap.

A chimney cap, with mesh screening around the sides, will ensure that burning embers don’t make their way on to your rooftop, something that is especially important in the event of a chimney fire. A chimney cap also will ensure that debris or animals don’t find a way into your chimney, causing a dangerous blockage.

Practice basic home fire safety.

Even if you have taken all the proper measures to keep your fireplace burning safely, it’s still important to be prepared for a potential fire. Keep at least one fire extinguisher on hand, and make sure you have it close to your fireplace. Each floor on your home should be equipped with a smoke detector, and that smoke detector should be tested at least every six months to make sure it is operational. Make sure that every member of your family knows what to do if that smoke detector goes off: Evacuate the home and meet at a predetermined location.
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