Rule 1: Always Monitor a fire
There’s no switch or knob to lower it or turn it off. Bottom line – you have to have a responsible person monitoring the fire as long as it’s burning. You can’t go out to a movie or go to sleep as long as there’s fuel for the fire to consume. Don’t leave fires unattended – EVER!
Rule 2: Make sure your fireplace is properly constructed and MAINTAIN IT!
OK, believe it or not there’s a lot of parts that all have to work together correctly in order for your fireplace to work and be safe.
Even things that were properly installed originally can deteriorate over time and become hazards. Annual cleanings and inspections are the best way to make sure you’ve got a system that’s as safe as it can be.
Rule 3: Make sure you have a sturdy screen that keeps hot embers in and children and pets out.
Screens, whether metal or metal and glass, serve an important function. They keep the wood and hot embers inside your fireplace while making it more difficult (but not impossible) for people and animals to come in direct contact with the fire.
Rule 4: Don’t overload the fireplace with wood.
Keep things under control. Don’t add a lot of wood all at once and create a bonfire in your house. 3 or 4 logs burning nicely will keep you toasty and look, sound and smell great.
Rule 5: Dispose of ashes properly!
Put hot ashes in a non-combustable container (that would be metal) with a tight fitting cover (you can even put a little water over the ashes in the container). A good cover will deprive the embers of one of the elements necessary for fire – oxygen. Now, when you put hot embers in a metal container the heat will be conducted to the container so don’t put it on anything that could burn or be damaged by the heat. And here’s the key – PUT IT AT LEAST 10 FEET AWAY FROM THE HOUSE!
Finally, keep a fire extinguisher near your fireplace. You should have an ABC fire extinguisher in your kitchen and you should keep one near your fireplace(s) also. If things don’t seem right, don’t be a hero. Get your family (and pets) out of the house and call 911.