The fireplace can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of your home, especially this time of year. As the mercury dips, snowflakes begin to fall and guests start arriving for holiday parties and family get-togethers, it's tempting to light a fire just about every day, and I wouldn't dream of stopping you. On the contrary, I encourage you to throw another log on the fire this very instant. 'Tis the season...
I do, however, urge you to be careful this holiday season, and smart. Here at Fireplace Decorating we encourage fireplace usage but we also stress fireplace safety.
Did you know, for example, that December, January and February are the leading months for home fires and fire deaths? That's according to the National Fire protection Association. You'll be seeing lots of articles on this important subject in the coming weeks, like this one from the Daily Advertiser in St. Martinville, La.
Of course, it's important to understand that the vast majority of home fires do not begin in the fireplace. As the Advertiser mentions, most home fires are related to negligence in the kitchen, while the leading cause of fire-related deaths in the U.S. can still be traced back to unattended cigarette butts. Fires stemming from poorly placed or abandoned candles, as well as from faulty wiring (particularly Christmas tree lights), are also among the principle home fire culprits this time of year.
Still, a dirty fireplace can become a fire hazard, particularly if left unattended. It is also not a good idea to burn improper materials in the fireplace, such as used wrapping paper, which contains hazardous dyes, or clippings from the Christmas tree. This is a quick ticket to a dangerous chimney fire.
It's also wise not to put your tree too close to the fireplace, particularly if you have a natural tree. Dry branches and needles pose a serious fire hazard.
Again, though: Don't take this as a warning not to enjoy your fireplace this holiday season. Rather, just make sure to exercise a little caution and good sense. Here are just a few quick tips to keep your family safe this season as you gather round the hearth:
- If you haven't had your fireplace inspected in a while, call a professional out to make sure everything is in working order. If there is excessive soot or creosote in the chimney have it thoroughly cleaned before burning even a single log.
- Install a fireplace screen or glass fireplace doors to keep the embers where they belong -- inside the firebox.
- Keep flammable objects, including your Christmas tree, clear of the fireplace area.
- Don't burn wrapping paper, plastic, Christmas tree clippings or wet wood
- Never leave your fireplace unattended.