Remember safety when using fireplace

By Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District

As temperatures drop, many homeowners will try to make their homes warm and cozy by using their fireplaces, but with fireplace and wood stove use comes responsibility.

The National Fire Protection Association states that 64,100 home-heating fires were reported in 2006. The fires resulted in 40 deaths, 1,400 injuries and $943 million in property damage. From 2003-06, 39 percent of all home-heating fires involved fireplaces and chimneys.

Most fireplace, chimney and wood stove fires are caused by the buildup of creosote, an oily liquid in wood that can remain inside the chimney and harden. The built-up creosote can then catch fire. Rancho Santa Fe Fire said the best way to avoid this is to have a professional chimney specialist inspect and clean chimneys annually.

Other fireplace safety tips:

  • Clear the area around the fireplace of flammable materials.
  • Always use a metal mesh screen to keep embers from blowing into room.
  • Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.
  • Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or Christmas trees in the fireplace.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.
  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Use long matches to light the fire.
  • Remember that gas fireplaces can be hot before, during and after the fire.