One thing we all look forward to when the chilly weather sets in is a nice roaring fire to light up the room. Your fireplace is not only a great source of natural heating, but brings a crackling snap to the ambience with that distinctive fireplace aroma. Enjoy your fireplace, but be sure to follow the basic rules for a safe and happy hearth.
1. Be sure you have your chimney inspected if you have not used your fireplace in a while. There may be a dangerous blockage from debris lodged in the chimney, and small animals may have found shelter with a nest. To keep all creatures safe and sound, have your chimney inspected regularly.
2. Never use a chemical fire accelerant to jump start your burning logs. Flammable liquids such as kerosene, lighter fluid and gasoline can cause a dangerous flash and ignite the area outside of the fire pit.
3. Keep all combustible fluids far away from the fireplace flames and heat. This includes seemingly harmless liquids such as nail polish and nail polish remover, which contain highly flammable chemicals.
4. Protect your fireplace with a security screen, one which is properly sized to cover the open fire pit. In addition, when placing your logs on the iron pedestals, be sure that they are positioned correctly and will not be able to roll forward into the fire screen. The screens are tough, but may buckle under a heavy log barreling towards the facing.
5. Keep the fire level to a low or medium high density of flames. A roaring fire is nice for the camp grounds, but can be dangerous inside of a home. You never want the flames to rise so high that the sparks can escape through the edges of the screen.
6. Never burn anything that is made of plastic or cellophane. This material often omits a gas when heated and can radiate odorous and dangerous fumes.
7. When adding a fresh log, avoid throwing the timber onto the burned out embers. The weight of the log will cause sparks to fly, as the inside of the glowing embers are still red hot and fragile. Instead, carefully place your new log on the front section of the fire and slowly roll it backward with a fire poker.
8. Keep in mind the time you wish to retire for the evening and let the fire die down well before bedtime. You never want to leave the burning embers going when the fireplace is unsupervised.
9. Be sure you do not burn lightweight loose papers that will quickly ignite and float to your rooftop. Burning newspapers is OK, but they should be tightly rolled and placed under the logs. And as a general rule, you do not want to burn fabrics or garbage in your fireplace for the same reason. Perhaps the most common mistake is to put a Christmas tree into your fire. The branches are spread out and separated and cause an extension to the flames, one that can quickly get out of control. Rather, chop your tree and make arrangements for its removal with your garbage service.
10. Be sure to sweep your fireplace after each use to remove any ashes that might hinder your next fire. The easiest method of ash removal is to invest in a fireplace tool set that will equip you with several sizes of brushes, pokers and a metal dustpan. And be sure to keep your fireplace tools near to the fireplace in case there is an emergency where you have to shift the logs. In addition, you may wish to keep a fire extinguisher on hand should the area outside of the fire pit ignite. Fire extinguishers should be dated to ensure they are fully functional when you need them and should be replaced upon their expiration date.