Despite the fact that this winter has been mild so far in comparison to the last two years, the months of February and March are still key months for fireplace use. By keeping in mind the following fireplace safety tips, you can protect your property and the lives of your family and neighbors.
- Inspect and clean your chimney and fireplace once a year (typically in the fall) to remove soot and creosote build up and to make sure they are able to operate safely. A chimney professional will use specialized vacuums to clean the firebox, smoke chamber, damper, smoke shelf and flue liner and will report on any system deficiencies found. They can also check the chimney and cap for deterioration or signs of damage.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, and keep them in working order.
- Test your fireplace with a few small pieces of seasoned wood to make sure that smoke does not enter the room.
- When operating your fireplace, make sure you remove any combustible materials from the area around your hearth, and use a mesh screen to keep embers in the fireplace. Glass fireplace doors should be kept open when a fire is burning so that the fire receives air to complete combustion and reduce creosote build up in the chimney.
- Use the correct wood – dense wood types (oak, ash, maple) that have been stored in a dry area for 6 months or more are best – split wood dries more thoroughly and burns better than whole logs. Firewood should be stored a minimum of 30 feet away from your home.
- Never use flammable liquids to start fires – use matches or a commercial firelighter, and never burn cardboard, trash or debris.
- Do not close dampers until the fire is completely out.
- Clean out excess ash so that it doesn’t impede airflow for your fire. An inch of ash at the bottom actually helps to maintain a fire. Ashes can take several days to cool completely. Keep them in a metal container located at least 10 feet away from any buildings.
The expenses associated with maintaining your fireplace and chimney each year are minimal in comparison with the costs of a fire. We urge all our clients, family and friends to take the steps necessary to assure safe operations. If you have questions about your insurance coverage in the event of a fire, please contact our team in Cooperstown at 547-2951 or in Morris at 263-5170.