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Keep the Home Fires (Safely) Burning
Posted on November 3, 2020 12:31 PM by Melissa Gentry
Categories: Homeowner Articles
One of winter’s great pleasures is relaxing in front of a warm, cozy fire. For most months of the year, however, the fireplace stands idle, and these long periods of disuse can lead to hazardous conditions when you light your first fire of the season.
 
Your fireplace needs regular care and cleaning to assure a safe and roaring fire. Creosote, a flammable, tar-like substance that accumulates in the firebox, chimney and flue, should be removed by a professional once a year, eliminating the worry of a potential fire hazard. Your chimney should also be inspected annually to ensure there are no structural problems.
 
Clean your fireplace and its accessories regularly to prevent the accumulation of soot, ashes and creosote tars. The following guidelines will help you keep your fireplace in good working order throughout the wood-burning season:
 
·       Vacuum or sweep the hearth weekly to prevent dust and soot buildup. Do not sweep or vacuum until all embers have been extinguished for at least 12 hours.
·       Burn only well-dried, seasoned wood to minimize dangerous creosote buildup and reduce the risk of toxic fumes and excessive smoke.
·       Don’t use water to drown a fire except in case of an emergency. Water will make a paste of the ashes, which is difficult to remove.
·       Don’t use an abrasive cleanser inside the fireplace; many such cleaners leave a flammable residue. Instead use a stiff-bristled brush to gently scrub the walls of the firebox.
·       When cleaning your fireplace, sprinkle damp coffee grounds over the cooled ashes to keep down the dust.
Remember, disasters can happen even in the best of homes. That’s why every home should be equipped with carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Here are a few tips:
 
·       Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in sleeping areas and on every level of your home and away from air vents. Interconnected smoke alarms are best, because if one sounds, they all sound.
·       Test smoke alarms monthly, and change alkaline batteries at least once a year. Use a familiar date, such as your birthday or when you change your clocks, as a reminder.
·       Prepare and practice a fire escape route with everyone in your home, including children.
 
For more information, visit www.usfa.dhs.gov/smokealarms.
 
For more tips on fireplace care and maintenance, as well as kerosene heaters, wood-burning stoves and furnaces, download the U.S. Fire Administration brochure, Winter Fires: Safety Tips for the Home, at www.usfa.fema.gov/