A fire in the hearth is a warm and welcoming part of winter for many Americans, but open flames inside the home should always be tended safely. Before you light your fireplace, we’re hoping you consider safety first.
Carbon monoxide exposure, burns and fire risks are the major hazards associated with fireplaces, but all of these can be addressed with a little planning and preparation.
An open and properly maintained flue ensures that fireplace gases can be vented to the outside through the chimney and closed to help keep heat inside the home when the fireplace is not in use. It’s also important to make sure you have protective barriers in front of fireplaces to prevent children from coming into direct contact with the glass front of the fire screen. Many new fireplace screen sets include protective barriers or external screens designed to add that extra layer of protection to reduce burn risks.
Make sure you include a full inspection of your fireplace and flues with your system checkups. You should also make sure you have at least one carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home to reduce the risks of CO exposure. This odorless and colorless gas, carbon monoxide, can quickly build up in the closed interior spaces of a home, leaving all occupants incapacitated and hindering escape. When a CO alarm is activated, people can get out and then contact firefighters to deal with the carbon monoxide buildup that prompted the alarm.
While carbon monoxide detectors are now required under many building codes for new construction in homes that include fireplaces, they can be installed in older homes or on floors where they are needed. It’s important that people install them on every level of their homes, just outside of sleeping areas.
Please do not use your gas stove or similar sources for heating. This is a very dangerous practice. CO gas can be created whenever coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane or furnaces, generators, tools and water heaters can also create CO.
Fireplaces should be considered fuel-burning appliances, subject to the same safety precautions, inspections and maintenance standards recommended for other items in that category. Getting regular inspections, just as you would for furnaces or heating systems is also very important.
That inspection not only helps to ensure the system is tuned up for efficient operation, but it also gives the homeowner warning of wear or damage that could potentially cause fires or other problems once the season is underway.