October is fire safety month, so this month we bring you fireplace safety tips to keep you warm and toasty -- and safe! -- all Winter long. Before lighting that pilot light or buying your firewood for the season, please take a look at our fireplace safety checklist.
Never leave a fireplace unattended while in use
This tip is fairly self explanatory and is especially important if you have a wood-burning fireplace (rather than a gas model). Fires can get very hot and out of hand quickly, so it's best to keep your eye on the fireplace when in use. As a side note, please make sure not to leave young children alone near a fireplace that is in use.
Make sure to clean out your chimney (or call a reputable chimney sweep to do the job) before using your fireplace this season
As part of your Fall maintenance plan, it's a good idea to have your chimney swept once a year -- especially if your fireplace gets a lot of use in the colder months. Fires leave a lot of flammable ash and debris behind, so a clean chimney is less of a safety concern than one that contains a lot of accumulated creosote, ash, and soot. It is also a great idea to clean your firebox after every use if you have a wood-burning fireplace.
Limit your fireplace kindling to wood or manufactured logs
In other words, please refrain from burning used wrapping paper, paper plates from dinner, and other household items that are not necessarily meant to be used as fire kindling! Not only do these items sometimes burn brighter, faster, and hotter, but they often release toxic chemicals into the air of your home.
Make sure to put a carbon monoxide detector in all rooms of your home that have fireplaces
An improperly vented fireplace is often a source of carbon monoxide accumulation in the home, so it is absolutely vital that your home contains one (or multiple) carbon monoxide detectors. This is an inexpensive and easy to use/install device, so there is no excuse for a home not to have one!
Keep the floor and hearth around your fireplace clear of household "stuff" and flammable items
Because an actively burning fire sometimes throws sparks or ash out of the fireplace, it's imperative to keep all surrounding areas clear of stuff that could easily ignite and create a house fire.
Always, always, always make sure to have a fire extinguisher handy when using your fireplace
Every home should have a fire extinguisher that's easily accessible by all inhabitants. This is especially true when using your fireplace, because a roaring fire can quickly and easily become unmanageable. As always, it's best to err on the side of caution and make sure this handy life-saving device is nearby.
Keep fireplace doors open when it is in use
If your fireplace has glass doors that open, it's a good idea to open them (and use a fireplace screen) when using your fireplace. An active fire generates a huge amount of heat that is capable of shattering the glass on those doors if they remain closed.
Open a window when using your fireplace
A final - and very important - tip for fire safety month is to crack open a window before building your next fire. Something that most homeowners don't know is that a fire sucks up and uses more oxygen than is in a typical room in your house. By opening a window, you'll allow more oxygen to enter the room and will therefore have an easier time getting (and keeping!) that fire going.
Well, folks, there you have it. Go ahead and put "fireplace safety maintenance" at the top of your Fall home maintenance checklist and sleep easy knowing that you will safely enjoy your fireplace all Winter long.