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fireplace safety tips

You've been keeping the home fires burning for a few months now. 

But have you been properly caring for and feeding your hearth to ensure your family's safety?

Any fireplace, whether wood-burning, gas, or electric, poses a potential danger to everyone in your home if used incorrectly, or if it isn't properly maintained and regularly cleaned.

Here are a few fireplace safety tips on keeping the home fires burning - safely.

Become a Soot-Stopper

To minimize the buildup of soot and creosote (which can cause chimney fires), use seasoned hardwood or manufactured logs, such as Duraflame, that burn even cleaner than real wood.

If you do use manufactured logs, be sure to follow the use directions on the log's bag.

These logs burn hotter than regular wood, and can potentially warp metal chimneys if you burn more than one at a time.

Burn Only Simple Stuff for Fireplace Safety

Open the damper before starting a fire. Keep the damper open until the fire is completely extinguished.

Only burn wood or manufactured logs in your fireplace. Items with fancy finishes - like glossy wrapping paper, shiny bows, and foam peanuts - release toxic fumes.

You'll also want to avoid burning resinous woods such as pine (which leave creosote in the flue), as well as evergreen boughs and large quantities of paper, which can flare up and quickly get out of control. 

And never burn Christmas greenery in the fireplace. 

Go For A Slow Burn

Though a roaring fire looks attractive, it's not as safe as a slower, steadier burn. A too-hot fire can crack your chimney. Just a couple of logs at a time, please.

Position logs near the back of the fireplace to prevent fire and ashes from finding a way out of the hearth, and into your home.

Open Fireplace Doors 

Open fireplace doors (if you have them) when using the fireplace.
Open the fireplace doors, too, (if your fireplace has them), and use a fireplace screen when you've got the fire crackling.

Those glass doors are meant to keep drafts out when you're not using the fireplace, and can shatter if exposed to high heat (such as a roaring fire generates.)

Keep the Area Around the Fireplace Clear

Don't position your Christmas tree - or anything else - near the fireplace. If you drape your mantel with garlands or hang stockings or cards from it, don't light a fire. 

Should embers spark out of the fireplace and into the room, you want to make sure there is nothing nearby that will catch fire. This is an essential fireplace safety rule.

Never Leave a Fire Unattended

For safety's sake, never leave a fire unattended. And yes, this means you shouldn't go to sleep with a fire blazing away.

Open a Window When You Light a Fire

Fires require about five times as much oxygen as a room usually needs. To make sure there's enough oxygen for the fire to burn efficiently, open a window when you light your fire.

Clean the Firebox Between fires

While you'll want to leave chimney cleaning to the pros, undertake minor maintenance yourself: If you burn wood, clean the firebox between fires. Scoop up cool ashes and place them in a metal container.

Close the flue or air intake after each use to keep the indoor heat from escaping up the chimney.

Have Your Fireplace Chimney and flue Cleaned at Least Once a Year

If the creosote is allowed to build up in the flue, it can suddenly ignite, causing a dangerous chimney fire.

A Carbon-Monoxide Detector Is A Safety Must-Have

A carbon monoxide detector is a fireplace safety must-have. This deadly, colorless, odorless gas is becoming a threat in more and more of today's energy-efficient and airtight homes. 

The source of carbon monoxide is usually faulty burning in, or poor venting of, a fireplace or other appliance.

Keep a Fire Extinguisher Handy

Stash a fire extinguisher near the fireplace so that it's handy - just in case.

The best extinguisher is an easy-to-handle 2- or 5-pound (1 or 2.5 kg) model designed to put out most household fires, like this one from First Alert.

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› Fireplace Safety Tips