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4 Tips for Building a Safe Fire in Your HomeJanuary 18th, 2022 by
When the weather is chilly, it’s hard to resist the soft crackle and inviting warmth of a fire in the fireplace. But fire, even when it’s contained and used for ambience and heat, is not something to treat haphazardly.
You probably know to check the flue and sweep away old ashes before starting a new fire. But how much attention do you pay to what you burn?
Certain materials—even certain types of wood—burn much differently than a standard oak log. If you’re not careful about what ends up in the fireplace, you could be dealing with a fast-moving disaster.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- How to use your fireplace safely
- What to burn (and what to leave alone)
- How to keep you and your family safe and cozy
4 Tips for Building a Safe Fire
Starting a fire in your fireplace may seem simple, and it is! Well, as long as you do it safely. Burning the wrong materials can cause dangerous flame flare-ups and explosions. These flare-ups can have devastating consequences like burns and house fires.
It can be tempting to burn any flammable items you have on hand. Don’t do this. The risk of sparking, small explosions, and harmful fumes and byproducts is too great.
Good, safe fires take time to build. Follow these tips to build a safe, cozy fire in your fireplace:
1. Start small and slow
Don’t use an accelerant of any type. Patience is key here! Add kindling and larger logs as needed to keep the fire going.
2. Use quality firewood
Wet wood produces more smoke when it burns. More smoke equals higher levels of particulate matter in the air, and that’s bad for your lungs. The best, longest-lasting firewood is dense, like oak or hickory.
3. Never leave your fireplace unattended
The risk just isn’t worth it. Logs can roll and spark, and flames can jump unexpectedly. Someone should always have eyes on the fire.
4. Be sure to extinguish the fire before you head to bed at night
Smoldering embers might look harmless, but they can easily reignite. Spread out the embers and what’s left of the wood, and then cover everything with cold ashes. To fully extinguish the embers, cover everything with a layer of baking soda.
6 Things to Never Burn in Your Fireplace
1. The wrong wood
Not just any wood will do. Some woods are treated with potentially toxic chemicals in the production process. Those chemicals can release into the air when the wood is burned.
Don’t use pressure-treated, stained, painted, or glued wood in your fireplace. Older wood is more likely to be moldy or rotted and should not be burned.
2. Allergenic plants
Plants may seem like natural fireplace fodder, but be careful. Some plants can be harmful to your respiratory system when they’re burned.
For instance, plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can cause an allergic reaction when they’re touched or burned. So, before gathering leaves or scraps from the garden, make sure you know what you’re grabbing.
3. Paper products
If you’re collecting junk mail, colored newspaper, magazines, gift-wrapping paper, or old cardboard to use in your fireplace, think again!
Though these things are flammable, experts advise not burning them anywhere (but especially not inside). Burning these materials can release into the air toxic chemicals from the inks and the papermaking process.
4. Dryer lint
Dryer lint isn’t a safe fire starter. Dryer lint can contain chemicals from your clothing, laundry detergent, or fabric softener. Those chemicals can be dangerous when they’re burned.
5. Fuel accelerants
Gasoline, lighter fluid, or any other type of accelerant is dangerous in a fireplace. These accelerants release fumes that can be toxic in an enclosed space. They also cause the fire to grow too quickly.
Large fires are difficult to control and can easily escape the fireplace and spread to the rest of your home.
6. Charcoal products
Although charcoal products are perfect for a barbecue or grill, don’t use them in your fireplace.
When charcoal burns, it releases carbon monoxide. This isn’t a problem when you’re grilling in your backyard or an open field. It’s incredibly dangerous, however, if you’re in a house or under a pavilion or other structure.
Building a Safe Fire
Burning the right materials is only the beginning for fireplace safety. Before you start your first fire of the season, contact a chimney service company for a fireplace and chimney inspection and cleaning.
Creosote buildup in the chimney can cause a chimney fire. Unfortunately, creosote is not something you can see by looking up the flue. An experienced chimney sweep will need a camera and other tools to determine the services your chimney needs.
Once your chimney and fireplace are clean and ready for the cold weather, here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind:
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood
- Never leave a fire unattended
- Never let a fire burn unattended overnight
KEEP READING: Your Complete Guide to Wood Stoves