How to Safely Use Your Fireplace

If improperly operated or maintained, wood-burning fireplaces can cause house fires.


About 22,000 house fires a year start because of fireplace, wood stove or chimney issues—causing an estimated $93 million in residential property loss, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These tips will help keep your home fires burning safely:

1. Keep it clean

Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified professional before you use it. Creosote buildup in chimneys—caused by the byproducts from burning wood—is highly combustible.

2. Use dry wood

Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood. Soft, moist wood increases creosote buildup in the chimney. Cardboard boxes and trash also cause heavy creosote buildup.

3. Follow the three-foot rule

Keep a three-foot area around the fireplace that’s clear of anything that can burn, such as decorations, toys and furniture, in case an ember flies into the room. Children and pets should not play in this area.

4. Shield your room from the fire

Use a metal mesh screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. Glass doors shouldn’t be closed while there is a fire in your fireplace because the heat can break the glass. Only a mesh screen or curtain should be used for spark protection.

5. Avoid flammable liquids

Never use flammable liquids, such as lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline, to start or increase a fire because they may cause an explosion.

6. Keep a watchful eye

Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.

7. Check outside

To avoid embers escaping from the chimney and starting a fire outside, cover the chimney opening on the roof with a mesh-screen spark arrester, and remove branches hanging above the chimney.

8. Test your smoke detectors

Install smoke alarms on each level of your home. Test them before you use the fireplace for the winter season.

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