How to Prevent Chimney Fires This Winter

Now that winter is on it’s way, you may be thinking of dusting off your old fireplace in order to build a few cozy fires now and then. Before lighting the first match, consider this statistic:

42% of all home-heating fires are caused by problems with fireplaces and chimneys.

If you don’t want to become a part of that statistic (who wants a house fire, after all?), then there are a few steps you should take before using your fireplace this year. Let’s take a look:

1. Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned by a professional.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, you should have your chimney swept at least once a year at the beginning of the wood-burning season. This will remove soot, debris, and creosote (a substance that builds up inside a chimney and is very flammable). You can find a certified chimney sweep in your area by checking with the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

2. Cap your chimney.

You can get special chimney caps that are fitted with wire-mesh sides, which cover the top of the chimney. These caps keep birds, squirrels, rain water, and various debris from entering the chimney.

3. Inspect your chimney for damage.

When you hire a chimney sweep for a cleaning, also ask them to inspect your chimney for structural damage, such as cracks, missing mortar, or loose bricks. They should also check out the chimney liner to ensure it doesn’t need to be replaced.

4. Burn seasoned wood and build your fire correctly.

It doesn’t take a genius to light a fire, but there is a bit of an art to building a good fire. Use seasoned wood (wood that has been split and dried for at least six months) instead of green wood, which gives off more smoke and creosote (as mentioned, this substance can accumulate and cause chimney fires). Also choose dense woods over soft woods (i.e. oak instead of pine) because they produce less smoke and creosote.

5. Use a fireplace screen or glass doors.

Chimney fires aren’t the only way a house fire can get started. Stray sparks can escape from the fireplace into your living room and catch on rugs, draperies, and other flammable items. Use a spark guard such as a screen or glass fireplace doors in order to protect against this eventuality.

Follow these five steps, and you can count on many cozy and safe fires this season.

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