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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Fireplace Safety

submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appeared in the December 14, 2003 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

The cold wintery weather is here. Fireplace safety is important. As families use fireplaces to warm the home and for the cozy atmosphere everyone must be aware of potential hazards. Before using the fireplace for the first time be sure to check the chimney for bird nests.

Some safety tips when starting a fire include:

  • Keep the fire in the fireplace by having a safety screen or tempered glass door large enough to catch sparks.

  • Make sure the damper is open before lighting the fire.

  • Have a fire warning device in the house.

  • Have a fire extinguisher near the fireplace.

  • Use only enough fuel to keep the fire at the desired temperature.

  • Avoid roaring fires.

  • Do not use gasoline or other flammable liquids to start the fire.

  • Do not burn holiday wrapping paper, magazines or colored newspapers in the fireplace, as they may give off toxic chemicals.

  • Never burn trash, paper or green wood as they can cause heavy creosote buildup. Hardwoods are the best choice to burn.

  • Avoid using coal or charcoal in the fireplace as they give off deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.

  • Always place the logs to the rear of the fireplace on a supporting grate and never use too many logs.

  • Build fires that will burn completely.

  • Keep children and pets away from the fireplace to reduce the chance of fire and accidental burns.

  • When removing ashes, be sure they are cooled completely before disposing of them. It is best to put them in a metal container with a lid.

  • Always make sure the fire is out before going to bed or leaving the house.

  • Fireplaces require a lot more air than is needed for normal ventilation. In today's tightly constructed houses incorporating weather-stripped doors, caulked windows and self-closing exhaust vents, a fireplace can set up reverse draft and such poisonous carbon monoxide fumes from combustion-type (natural gas, etc.) water heats or furnaces and discharge them into the living area. In order to be safe, a positive source of outside air should be supplies to all fireplaces and wood or coal burning stoves to bring in enough fresh air for efficient burning. This can be done by installing an outside air vent or opening a window when the fireplace or stove is being used.

  • When disposing of your Christmas tree, recycle it - don't burn it in the fireplace.

Enjoy the warmth of your fireplace, just remember to use safety precautions.

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