Fireplace Safety Tips

Fall will soon be here and many of us will be using our fireplaces more regularly. The National Traffic Safety Institute wants to remind fireplace owners that a dirty fireplace is a fire hazard. The ash is actually creosote, which is a flammable carbon deposit that condenses in the flue when the chimney is hot. All it takes is a live ash to land in the right place to ignite the creosote, causing a chimney fire. The fire could quickly reach 2,500 degrees F. As the heat continues to build, the chimney could actually start to melt and the fire can actually be hot enough to melt mortar, bricks, and metal. Within a short time, the entire house could catch fire.

  • If a fire does start, use a chimney fire extinguisher.
  • If a chimney fire extinguisher is not available, cover the opening of the fire place with a wet blanket to starve the fire of oxygen.

The best method for preventing a fireplace chimney fire is prevention. It is recommended that the chimney be inspected and cleaned after every two cords of wood are burned. If the fireplace is used only occasionally, have it inspected and cleaned every year before use. It is difficult for a homeowner to thoroughly inspect a chimney, but if you decide not to seek professional help, do the inspection yourself. Using a bright flashlight and a mirror to look around the corner created by the smoke ledge, look up into the chimney. If the metal is shiny silver or the ceramic flue liner is bright pink, the chimney is clean. If the inside is black and furry-looking it is time to have the chimney cleaned. While conducting the inspection, check the fire box as well. Check for loose bricks or metal that is thin or warped. If either is found do not use the fireplace until repairs are made.

While conducting the inspection, check the chimney cap. Is it in good working condition? A damaged or missing flue cap will allow objects to come down the chimney and into your home. Rain entering the flue can cause damage. An open chimney is also an invitation for birds and other animals to enter your home. Nests from animals can be very flammable. A properly designed flue cap can also prevent sparks from leaving the chimney and staring a roof fire. Fireplaces are relaxing and fun if taken care of properly.