Fire Safety Tips

For many of us, we have an early memory of being told not to play with fire. That simple lesson was drummed into our heads again and again. And with good reason. Fire is dangerous, but it is also beautiful. Fire draws you to it when you need to keep a safe distance. Fire delights, and sometimes the delights cause us to forget the dangers.

Here are some simple things you can do to make sure your fireplace us is safe.


With a fire in your home, you can't totally protect against the possibility that a spark or a bit of flaming ash will shoot out into your living area. But you can take steps to reduce the possibility and to minimize the damage should it happen. Keep the metal curtains closed whenever you aren't attending to the fire. A flame proof fireplace rug can extend the area of protection beyond the edge of the hearth. It can also help define a perimeter where you don't put flammable items. Even without such a rug, you need to remember to keep flammable items well away from the fireplace.

Know Your Fireplace System

Your fireplace should come with a manual that will explain all the parts. Know how the damper affects air flow and the size of the fire. Know how adjusting the glass doors (or their vents) can do the same thing. Know where to place the wood so it won't roll out onto the floor. Know how much wood to place. If you're uncertain about any of this, start with a SMALL fire as a learning experience.

Don't Play with Fire!

You're all grown up now. But there may still be a child inside you thinking that now, finally, is the opportunity you've been waiting for. You want to poke the fire and watch the sparks fly. You want to try various combustibles from a plastic milk carton to the entire Sunday Times and see how they burn. Don't. Small errors of judgment can lead to large and irreversible disasters.

Never Leave the Fire Unattended

The fire may seem small and tame, but flames and air flow are a tricky combination. A fire can flare up suddenly and shoot out sparks. A chimney fire could begin to smolder. Air flow could get suddenly restricted and send smoke billowing into your living area. Learn to plan your fires so they burn out before you go to bed. Even then, make sure the damper and glass doors are tightly closed to starve anything that's left of air.

Maintain your Fireplace System

Have a chimney sweep out once a year to clean the system and inspect it. Creosote buildup can lead to an invisible chimney fire with devastating results. The sweep can also alert you to other possible problems with the chimney, flue and damper system, firebox, and glass doors.

Be Prepared

Install smoke detectors outside all the rooms. Make sure everyone knows at least two ways to escape from any room in the house. Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure you know how to use it.