Fireplace and Chimney Safety

Fireplaces, chimneys, and wood (or pellet) stoves are another area of particular concern when it comes to fire safety. A quiet evening spent in front of the fireplace is one of life’s great pleasures. So is reading to the family while enjoying the radiant heat from a wood stove. These things can give us much comfort and pleasure, and yet, if they’re used improperly or not maintained, they are fire safety hazards, and can easily lead to tragedy.

The main problem is creosote buildup. Creosote occurs naturally as a byproduct of burning wood. If it gets to be a quarter inch thick or thicker inside the chimney or stove, it’s a fire hazard, as it can ignite. Your best friend in the fight against wood stove and chimney fires is the legendary chimney sweep. They make their living cleaning chimneys and stoves, and have prevented untold numbers of fires over the centuries. You should have a chimney sweep clean your stove or fireplace at least once a year, and possibly more often if they get a lot of use. It’s also a good idea to make sure the chimney has been inspected when you buy a house. If it hasn’t, don’t use it until you’ve had it looked at.

If you ever do experience a chimney fire, get everyone out of the house, cut off as much of the air supply to the chimney as possible (since fire feeds on oxygen), and call the fire department. If you have an extinguisher, you should insert the nozzle into the chimney (or stove), empty out all the contents, and immediately close the door, if you feel it’s safe to do so. While you’re outside waiting for the fire department to arrive, if you have a garden hose, and it’s safe, you should wet down the roof as much as possible to prevent it from catching fire. Creosote isn’t the only fire safety hazard you need to be concerned about. Anytime you have a live fire in the house, you’ve got to keep a close eye on it, and carefully control it, lest it get out of hand. Except for when loading wood or pellets, or stirring embers, the doors of stoves should always be kept closed.

Even then, be careful for sparks or loose embers. Fireplaces should also be screened so that sparks can’t escape, and you shouldn’t go to bed, or leave the house, until all embers in a fireplace extinguished. If no one can be there to watch the fire, it should be put out. It’s okay to leave a wood burning stove on overnight or while you’re outside, as long as it’s in good working order. They’re designed for that. And never use either one for burning anything but wood (or pellets). Keep these fire safety precautions in mind, and you can get years of enjoyment and comfort from your stove or fireplace.

SHORTCUTS TO FIRE SAFETY ARTICLES:

Fire Safety and Electrical Appliances
Basic Smoke Detector Information
Types of Smoke Detectors
Basic Fire Extinguisher Information
Causes of Fires
Tips for Safe Use of Lighters and Matches
Explaining Fire Safety Rules to Children
The Importance of Fire Drills and Escape Plans
Kitchen Fire Prevention
Bedroom Fire Safety
Fire Safety Tips
Fireplace and Chimney Safety
Holiday Safety Tips
Miscellaneous Fire Safety Tips
EMT Test Practice Questions