The Dos and Don'ts of Fireplace Safety

Someone reading a book by the fire.

With winter right around the corner, getting your fireplace ready to tackle the cold temperatures is a project to put at the top of your list. Whether you’re experienced at fireplace maintenance or this is your first time using a fireplace, there are important safety issues to consider.

The “Dos” of Fireplace Safety

Before lighting the first fire of the season, have your fireplace cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep. This step should be taken at least once a year to remove any buildup of soot and creosote along the interior lining of the chimney that could cause a fire.

A chimney sweep cleaning a fireplace.

Using manufactured logs or seasoned hardwood helps reduce soot and creosote buildup.

It's recommended that you use a fireplace only as a short-term heating source so it can be supervised and attended.

Before lighting a fire, remove any old ashes and open the damper.

Keep the area around the fireplace free from items such as newspapers, magazines, books, furniture or other flammable items.

For wood-burning fireplaces, always stack the logs to the back of the opening in a fireplace grate. This is another safety tip to help keep sparks and embers contained and not be too close to rugs and carpets.

Before starting the fire, open a window to allow in additional oxygen. Fires need much more oxygen to burn properly than a room has available. The extra oxygen will ensure an efficient burn.

To prevent burning yourself, always use fireplace tools when taking care of the fire.

Keep the fire screen closed when the fireplace is in use to secure sparks and embers. Keep glass doors open when in use to supply oxygen to fuel the fire.

Install a smoke and a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Replace the batteries periodically.

Always have a fire extinguisher on hand should an accident or unforeseen situation occur.

When the fireplace is not in use, secure the top of the chimney with a cap to prevent animals and debris from entering the opening.

The “Do Nots” of Fireplace Safety

Never leave a fire burning in the fireplace unattended as sparks or embers may escape and land on flammable areas such as furniture or carpet.

Even with glass doors or mesh screens in place, do not allow children or pets near the fireplace. The glass and any metal on the screen will be hot while the fireplace is active, as well as after the fire has gone out and the materials are cooling down.

A fire in a fireplace.

As lovely as a decorated mantle may be during the holidays, never hang swags, garlands, cards, stockings, or any item near the open fireplace. Should sparks escape from the fireplace, these flammable objects, hanging so near to the fire, could easily ignite leading to a home disaster.

Do not use manufactured logs unless you have thoroughly read the instructions for their use. This type of log is a much faster and hotter burning element than wood and can cause damage to metal chimneys if not used correctly.

Never put items in the fireplace such as seasonal greenery, wrapping paper, charcoal, plastic, rolled newspapers, Christmas trees, or the foam inserts or peanuts packed in boxes. Some of these items are known to release toxic fumes.

Avoid “roaring” fires to lessen the chances of an accident. A controlled fire is safer, plus a fire that is burning too hot can damage the interior of the chimney.

Do not use an accelerant or gasoline to ignite a fire.

Close the damper only after all of the embers are no longer burning.

Always remove and store ashes in a container with a secure lid and one that is noncombustible as ashes can ignite several days later. Do not place the container near your home.

Make sure your fireplace is being used properly at all times whether it’s electric, gas, or wood-burning.