Gathering around a roaring fire in the fireplace is an enjoyable experience for many families as they stay warm and comfortable during the winter. While the fireplace may appear safe, a lack of chimney cleaning or fireplace repairs or an accident can cause a fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home heating equipment is the leading cause of residential fires resulting in over 1,300 injuries, 500 deaths, and more than $1.1B in property damage annually. Dirty chimneys were the top contributor in 1 out of 4 home heating fires. We encourage homeowners to consider the following fire prevention tips to keep their families safe around the fireplace.
Annual Chimney Inspection and Cleaning: Have a professional chimney technician inspect and clean the chimney annually is the best way to prevent a fire. The build-up of flammable creosote, chimney damage, and small animals or debris blocking the flue increases the risk of fire and exposure to potentially toxic carbon monoxide fumes.
Burn Seasoned Firewood: Wood that has been seasoned or dried for 6 to 12 months will burn cleaner with less creosote due to its low moisture content.
Open the Damper When Using the Fireplace: The damper needs to remain open until the fire is completely out so that smoke and fumes can vent out of your home.
Don’t Leave Children or Pets Unattended: Don’t leave children or pets unattended around an open flame, like the fireplace. Small children and pets are naturally curious, and accidents can happen in seconds. According to NFPA statistics, over 1,000 house fires each year are started by pets. When leaving the room, take children and pets with you.
Extinguish the Flames Before Leaving or Retiring: An unattended fire can get out of control very quickly. Always extinguish fireplace flames before leaving your house or going to bed. After the flames are out entirely, close the damper to prevent heat loss.
Keep Combustibles Away from the Fireplace: Objects like furniture, rugs, and toys may seem harmless but can catch on fire if they are too close to the fireplace.
Install a Smoke and CO Detector: Homeowners should install a smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector on every level of a home with a wood-burning or gas fireplace. Test them monthly and replace the batteries twice per year.
A house fire can spread very quickly, and the chances of survival increase significantly if every member of your household (including children) knows what to do.
Create an Escape Plan: Make sure every member in your household knows two ways to escape from every room in the house.
Teach Stop, Drop, and Roll: Make sure household members know how to Stop, Drop, and Roll if their clothing catches on fire.
Family Meeting Spot: Establish a spot outside of your house where family members will meet up after evacuating.
Fire Drills: Have regular fire drills so family members can practice evacuating the house quickly and assembling at the designated meeting spot. According to Underwriters Laboratories, you have 3 minutes or less to evacuate a house fire.
A fire doubles in size every minute, so when there is a fire, you need to get out of the house very quickly.