A major cause of home heating fires in Canada consists of the negligent or improper usage of fireplaces and chimneys. Fires usually occur when failing to clean the chimney or by placing objects too closely to the heat source. The tips below will help property owners learn how to use fireplaces more safely:
- A professional chimney sweep should be hired to inspect and remove creosote or other obstructions, such as animal nests, from the chimney.
- If the chimney doesn’t have a cap at the top, which prevents debris or animals from entering the chimney, property owners should have one installed.
- Any flammable objects (i.e. newspapers, books or furniture) should be placed at least 1 meter away from the fireplace.
- Rooms with fireplaces must be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be checked and tested regularly.
- Only dry, seasoned wood cut to the correct length should be used.
- A mesh metal screen or fire screen should be installed to prevent embers from shooting out of the fireplace.
- Fireplace tools must be used to maintain the fire.
- Children and pets have to be kept at a safe distance from the fire at all times.
- The fire must always be supervised. Before going to sleep or leaving the home, the fire should be extinguished.
- The damper has to be closed only when the embers have cooled off.
- When starting a fire:
- The ashes from the previous fire should be removed and put in a metal container with a tight lid. Leaving the ashes will result in more smoke, as it reduces the air supply to the wood. The container should be stored outside.
- The damper must be opened; a mirror or flashlight can be used to check that it’s open.
- Crumpled paper should be placed on the grate and then covered with kindling or other fire starter. Firewood can be added once the kindling is burning brightly, after which the fire screen ought to be closed.
- The fireplace must never be overloaded, since a large fire generates more smoke and can damage the chimney.
- Flammable liquids should never be used to start a fire. Property owners should avoid burning plastic, garbage or other toxic materials.
Using portable ethanol fireplaces can also pose a risk of fire. Safety tips for portable fireplaces are available here. More information about heating equipment safety can be found here. The PuroClean team stands ready to provide professional restoration services to any property affected by fire, water or mould damage.