Fireplace Maintenance: Three easy steps to safe home heating.
- Have a professional check your chimney once a year. Over the summer there are a range of things that can happen to your chimney making it unsafe. Birds have a tendancy to build nests, derbris can gather in unwanted places and you may have more cresosote than expected. The point is that it is worth the peace of mind knowing that you are burning safely.
- Buy a fire extinguisher. They are your best and only real defence against a fire. These should also be maintained approximately once a year.
- Make sure it is functioning properly. The door latch should close tightly. Furnaces and water heaters which have flue pipes attached to the chimney of a fireplace or wood burning stove should have tight fitting joints and seams.
If you are using an open fireplace, be sure yours has a tight fitting spark screen or enclosure to stop sparks from landing on carpet or other nearby combustibles. Special retaining screens can also keep children and pets at a safe distance from the fire. One poorly placed spark can light up an entire house so take a minute to assess your living area.
Before starting your first fire this year, ask yourself a few questions.
- Are there curtains or carpet close by the fireplace?
- Is the fire extinguisher close enough that you can act without having to think about it?
- Do my kids know what to do if there is a fire?
Lighting a Fire: Never use liquid fuel to start the fire in a fireplace or wood burning stove indoors. This is extremely hazardous and unsafe. Ask your local firewood dealer about getting some cedar kindling added to your next order.
Cleaning out your fireplace: Dampen ashes thoroughly. Give them ample time to cool, and store them in metal cans that are used solely for ash storage. Although ash is a great additive for soil, do not store them in compost piles, cartons, boxes or anything else that is combustible.
Seasoned, dry, quality firewood: It is important to use only thoroughly seasoned and dry firewood. This will prevent or reduce the buildup of creosote which is the cause of many house fires.
Although following these precautions will reduce your risk of a chimney fire, be aware of the signs of one and know what to do if you encounter them.
- sucking sounds
- a loud roar
- shaking pipes
- heat spots on the chimney or wall
- smoke buildup in your home.
- flames extiting through the top of your chimney
If you hear or see any of these sounds shut off the fire’s air supply, get everyone out of the house quickly, and call 911. We do not suggest you attempt to combat the fire on your own. This being said, if you do choose to try and extinguish your fire be wary of smoke inhalation. Spraying down your chimney is the most effective way to kill the fire however this is incredibly dangerous.
There is something special about the feeling of warmth and cheer that surrounds gathering around the hearth on a cold winter night; take the time to make it as safe of an experience as possible and have a wonderful, warm winter.