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7 Holiday Fireplace Safety Tips

7 Holiday Fireplace Safety Tips

Fireplaces add coziness and warmth to any space, especially with the holiday season approaching. Lighting a hearth in the colder months can create a more comfortable space for gatherings and celebrations with friends and family. While everyone can enjoy a cozy fire, it's crucial to take appropriate safety and maintenance precautions to keep your family safe.

1. Keep Decorations and Flammable Objects Away

While the mantel is often a favorite place to decorate for the holidays, it's crucial to use caution when hanging festive decor around it. Try to keep at least 3 feet of free space around the fireplace to avoid anything from catching fire. You might also look for artificial trees and flame-resistant decorations.

While flame-retardant decor is a wise choice, flame-resistant materials can add extra protection from accidental fires. These will resist catching fire as opposed to flame-retardant ones, which are chemically treated to burn slowly or extinguish on their own. If you use a fresh-cut tree, make sure you water it more frequently, as fire can pull moisture from the air — drying out your tree and increasing the risk of catching fire. 

If you choose to hang stockings from the mantel, move them outside of the safety zone prior to starting a fire in the fireplace. That way, you can enjoy your decorations and this festive time while keeping your family and home safe.

2. Only Burn Seasoned Wood

During the festive season or any other time you start your fire, ensure you exclusively burn wood that has been seasoned for six months to a year. Additionally, while you might feel tempted to dispose of wrapping paper in the fireplace, these items are treated with harmful chemicals that can escape into the air your family breathes.

In general, avoid using treated wood and try to dispose of wrapping paper and other items in the garbage or recycling. Use extremely dry firewood, as it'll burn much better. Less moisture also ensures less soot, smoke and creosote buildup in your fireplace.

3. Create a Safety Zone

Before lighting a fire in your hearth, follow these tips to create a safety zone:

  • Free space around the fireplace: Keep children, pets and flammable objects at least three 3 away from the fireplace. Following this precaution year-round can help you enjoy your fireplace with peace of mind. 
  • Have a responsible adult in the room: Ensure there's always a responsible adult in a room with an open flame, whether you're lighting a candle or starting your fireplace.
  • Keep the flue open: It can be easy to forget to open your flue or damper, but you'll want to keep it open to draw out smoke and other harmful byproducts from your home's air.
  • Keep your fire extinguisher easily accessible: Have a working fire extinguisher close to your fireplace. Fire extinguishers generally last five to 15 years, so be sure to label yours with the date you purchased it and replace it regularly. If it needs recharging, set up a schedule to have it serviced by a professional.
  • Use safety tools: Only use safety tools to move burning longs to prevent burns or blisters from the heat. Keep items close by like a poker, fiber broom, shovel and tongs.

4. Check Your Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Always ensure your fire and smoke detectors are in working condition. If you primarily use your fireplace during the colder months, test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms at least once a year or right before the holiday season.

Most smoke detectors will make a chirping sound to indicate that the battery needs to be replaced, so listen for that noise and replace them prior to lighting a fire in your home. This safety measure will give you peace of mind, ensuring a more comfortable time spent around the fireplace.

5. Properly Clean and Dispose of Ashes

Properly Clean and Dispose of Ashes

Fireplace embers can stay hot for days after being extinguished. For this reason, you'll want to properly dispose of these ashes to prevent a fire and keep your home safe. To do so, wait at least 12 hours after your last fire and follow these steps:

  1. Remove or extinguish live embers.
  2. Scoop out most of the ash with a metal shovel and place it in a metal bucket.
  3. Place the bucket outside away from combustible materials.
  4. Use an ash vacuum to remove the remaining ashes.
  5. Clean the firebox with soapy water and a sponge.
  6. Wipe and rinse all cleaned surfaces.

A chimney cap can also prevent rainwater from getting into your fireplace, keeping it clean and free of mold and mildew. You won't have to worry about cleaning out debris as frequently and can rest assured the fireplace is protected from animals.

6. Have Your Fireplace and Chimney Professionally Inspected and Swept

Schedule a professional inspection as part of your year-round fireplace and chimney safety maintenance. Professionals might recommend a chimney sweep to remove debris that could pose a fire hazard. Getting the inspection before the holidays can help you enjoy your fireplace safely throughout the colder months without worries.

Even if you only use your fireplace on special occasions, a yearly inspection is a must. Professionals have the experience and knowledge to spot signs of deterioration and take care of animals that might have built nests in your chimney.

Consulting with a reputable, licensed chimney specialist and inspecting your fireplace yearly can set you up for a cozy and enjoyable holiday season.

7. Cozy Up and Enjoy

While there's no correct way to cozy up around the fireplace, here are a few tips to make enjoy the experience as comfortable as possible this holiday season:

  • A large soft blanket: Blankets offer plenty of comfort, allowing you to cozy up with a good book or while watching your favorite holiday movie.
  • An oversized sweater and wool socks: Comfy wool socks and a soft, oversized sweater can keep you nice and warm on a cold winter's day.
  • Calm music: Play soft and soothing music or holiday classics to amplify the festive atmosphere.
  • Dimmed lights and candles: Hang up fairy lights or light a few candles to complement the warm glow of your fire and create the perfect ambiance.
  • A cup of cocoa or tea: A festive drink like hot cocoa or tea can help you relax after a long day and warm you up on those colder nights.

Count on Anderson's Chimney & Masonry Services for All Your Chimney Needs

The holiday season is a time for warmth, traditions and family, and your fireplace is at the center of it all. As we approach that cozy time of the year, turn to Anderson's Chimney & Masonry for all your fireplace needs. Our experienced team can provide various services, from inspections and sweeps to restoration and flue relining. That way, you have peace of mind while lighting the first fire of the season.

Call us at 717-970-5434 or contact us to learn how we can prepare your fireplace for the holidays. 

Count on Anderson's Chimney & Masonry Services for All Your Chimney Needs

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