When there’s a nip in the air, your thoughts may turn to cozying up next to a roaring fire.
But before laying down any logs, it’s important to think about the potential dangers that come with using a fireplace.
Each year, 24,500 residential fires occur in chimneys, causing 20 deaths and $126.1 million in property damage. Equally alarming is that more than 200 people die annually from accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning caused by problems with the venting of their heating systems, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Taking proper care of your chimney can greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the likelihood that these safety hazards occur. Employ a few of these basic tips to keep your family and home safe as well as warm:
Hire a professional to check your chimney every fall. We all like the money-saving aspect of do-it-yourself cleaning, but chimneys are complex and difficult to clean correctly. Certified chimney sweeps can regularly test the chimney’s ventilation system.
Your fireplace is a great source of all-natural home heating, and it’s important to make sure you are using the proper means to start your fire. To help prevent a chimney fire, use dry wood — dryness is more important than hard versus soft wood considerations, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Also, be sure never to use cardboard boxes, wrapping paper or trash for kindling, as they are more prone to cause chimney fires.
Despite preventative measures, it is still possible for a fire to start or for CO to enter the home when using your fireplace. CO is a poisonous gas that you cannot see, smell or taste, making it impossible to detect with human senses.
Make sure you have working smoke and CO alarms installed in your home — one on each floor, including the basement, and outside every sleeping area — to alert you and your family if CO or fire is a threat in the home. Also, always remember to open the fireplace flue so the gas and smoke from the fire can be properly vented out of the house.
In case a chimney fire does occur, have a fire extinguisher readily available to put out the flames before the fire grows out of control. Make sure the fire extinguisher is located in a spot that is easily accessible and that every adult in the home knows how to use it effectively. An easy-to-use option is Tundra Fire Extinguishing Spray, which functions like an aerosol spray can, giving the product a familiar design that doesn’t take up much storage room. Another good preventative measure is to place screens in front of the fireplace to contain any sparks.
Remember, a clean chimney is less likely to catch fire. Take the time this National Chimney Safety Week to make sure your chimney is ready for the long winter months that will soon be here!Debbie Hanson is the Director of External Affairs for First Alert, a trusted brand in home safety products.