Fire Safety Tips
It's that time of the year when those cool mornings or evenings invite us to warm ourselves in front of a roaring fire in our fireplace. But if you're like us, we don't burn in our fireplaces year round and have a tendency to forget that the fireplace, flue and chimney, all need preventative maintenance to operate at their peak and safest level.
We offer these suggestions for pre-season use of your fireplace:
- Have the chimney inspected for cracking or deterioration.
- Repair any loose mortar or bricks - this is what keeps the hot gas and embers from igniting your home. If you burn firewood on a regular basis, creosote will build up.
- Creosote and the carbon buildup from past fires is what burns and creates chimney fires.
- Have your chimney professionally cleaned. "Chimney Sweep" fireplace logs are not an adequate substitute for annual inspections and mechanical cleaning.
- Make certain that the damper works and will open fully. A damper that does not operate correctly will cause a fire to burn poorly, and will generate more creosote and carbon than a well air fed and drafted fire.
- If your fireplace is equipped with an ash bin or charcoal dump, empty it out in preparation for the season.
- Check your fireplace screen. Make certain that it will cover the entire opening of your fireplace and is not damaged to the point that embers could escape. If you have glass doors, check the manufacturers nomenclature and make certain they are rated and approved for use while a fire is burning. Many are required to be slightly open and used in conjunction with a wire mesh screen.
Once you've completed the above and feel satisfied that you are prepared for your first fire, remember the following:
- Keep the area around your hearth free and clear of combustibles. That includes the next load of logs for the fireplace or the kindling for the next fire. The fuel goes into the fireplace, not outside of it.
- Make fires that fit your fireplace. DON'T OVERLOAD. Fire that are too large waste fuel and can burn hot enough to damage your flue, chimney or fireplace.
- Use seasoned wood that has a moisture content of 20% or less. This will decrease the creosote levels and burn cleaner.
- Hardwoods such as Hickory, Beech, Maple, Cherry and White Oak burn the best and the cleanest. The hardwoods have a higher available heat factor (BTU) per a pound versus the softer woods (Pine, Alder, Hemlock) and will burn hotter and more efficiently - thus minimizing creosote build up subsequent risk of a chimney fire.
- Keep your firewood covered, stacked outdoors and away from the home.
- Bring in only the amount of firewood you need. This will help prevent insects from taking residence in your home.
- Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
- Always build your fire towards the rear of the fireplace on a level and sturdy grate. This will minimize the chance of your logs or wood from rolling out of the fireplace. Never leave a fire unattended.
We hope that you have a great indoor burn season and will take the time to burn safe, not sorry.