Fall weather is here, and you likely look forward to cozy times spent at home with your warm and beautiful fireplace. But thousands of seriously dangerous fires develop in chimneys which could lead to major damage to property and to people.
Keep you and your loved ones safe when you use your fireplace this year by staying vigilant when it comes to maintaining a fire in your fireplace. This means understanding the basics of how to build a fire in a safe and controlled manner. Read on to learn steps to using your fireplace in a way that maximizes safety.
Inspect Your Fireplace Before Each Use
Before you use your fireplace, you should take a good look at the hearth and the surrounding area. You want to make sure the fireplace stays clean and free of excess ash and soot build-up. Take a look at your flue as well to see if dark creosote has accrued within the chimney.
Creosote is highly flammable, and this excess mess could majorly increase the risk of catching fire and leading to a dangerous, out-of-control emergency. You should keep the fireplace and your chimney clean. This should include hiring a professional chimney sweep to clean the chimney with proper technique and equipment.
Inspect the fireplace, flue, and chimney for signs of structural damage as well. If these features seem to be falling apart, then smoke from your fire might not flow properly out of your home. Smoke could then spread through your house and lead to health concerns for residents as well as damage to your property.
Keep other fire safety tools on hand as well. This means a functioning smoke alarm and a fire extinguisher within easy reach.
Open the Chimney Damper
Your chimney is likely equipped with a feature called a damper. The damper is a plate within the flue that can open and shut when you flip a switch or level near your fireplace. You keep the damper closed when not in use to prevent drafts and external elements from entering your home.
But you should open the damper when you intend to use your fireplace. Otherwise, the damper will block smoke from properly escaping through your chimney and out of your house. Without this airflow, smoke will travel back into your home and cause a number of issues. So make sure you set the damper to open prior to building a fire.
Build Your Fire with Care
With these preparatory steps taken, you can then build a fire in your fireplace. Use dried wood for a more controlled and less smoky burn. There are many ways to construct a fire in your grate, but make sure you build it with care and with safety as a priority.
Keep an eye on your fire and do not leave it unattended while lit. Properly extinguish the fire when you are done with it. Do not leave it to burn itself out.
To put out your fire, spread out the burning wood to create a flat surface. Then shovel ash on top of the fire to cut off its oxygen source. You should keep the damper open during this process so that smoke can still travel out of your chimney. For more fireplace safety advice, give your local chimney sweep a call.