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Fire Safety for Fireplace Owners

A fireplace is a valuable addition to any east coast home, especially during the winter. Gray skies, bare trees, and a sharp wind can make the chilly season feel longer than it is, but cozying up to a toasty fire helps hurry things along. The comforting crackle and the soothing dance of flames puts us at ease and can even make us temporarily forget the long wait ahead until spring. Having the luxury of a fireplace is not all warmth and comfort, though. A fireplace actually comes with a lot of responsibility to keep the home and family safe.

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The most immediate danger in a fireplace is the fire itself. Burning at several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes more depending on the fuel, the flames and embers can cause severe injury instantly upon contact. Thus, to avoid these potentially life-threatening burns, you can take a few safety measures every time you light up the fire. First, maintain a distance of at least three feet from the fireplace for any combustible materials, like furniture and decorations. You should always supervise the fire while it is lit, especially with small children and pets in the vicinity.

To keep children and pets safe, another option is to have heat resistant glass doors installed in front of the fireplace. These prevent any accidental direct contact with the fire, and many models do not even become hot to the touch, making contact with the doors themselves relatively safe. For older children, be sure to teach them about fire safety as well. Explain the risk of injury from burns, how to be safe when a fire is lit, and the danger of throwing foreign objects into the flames.

Once everyone knows how to respect the fire, there are a few more steps you need to take. To start with, always open the damper prior to lighting the fire. Most fireplaces have a ventilation system, aside from gas vent-free fireplaces, so burning a fire with the damper open is imperative. Failing to open the damper could extinguish the fire, at the very least, or fill your home with poisonous carbon monoxide, at the worst. In addition, have the chimney swept and inspected at least once every year. This practice clears out creosote deposits, which can cause devastating chimney fires if allowed to build up, and checks for any damage or obstructions in the chimney that could make it unsafe to use.

This final safety tip goes for every home, not just those with fireplaces: install and regularly update smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house. Depending on the manufacturer, they must be completely replaced every five to ten years, and they should be tested for proper function every month. There should be one of each on every level of the house, with one outside the sleeping area. In addition, a smoke detector must be installed in each room.

By taking these basic safety tips into consideration when using your fireplace this winter, you can help ensure a happy, safe season for everyone. To receive more information on fireplace safety or to schedule a chimney sweep or inspection in the Boston area, contact Above and Beyond Chimney Service.