Festive decorations, family gatherings and sipping hot chocolate by a crackling fire all make the holidays bright, but it's essential to practice fireplace safety precautions.
The holiday season is the most dangerous time of year for house fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), more open-flame fires occur on Christmas Day than on any other day of the year. These five fireplace safety tips from our REALTORS® can help prevent fires, keep your home and family safe and give you peace of mind so you can relax and be of good cheer during the holidays.
- Have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually.
Failing to have your chimney professionally checked and cleaned regularly can have damaging and even deadly consequences. Each time you burn a fire in your fireplace, creosote and soot collect in your chimney flue. Creosote buildup restricts the airflow of your chimney, which can cause it to catch on fire. In its initial stages, creosote is a flaky deposit that can be easily brushed away by proper cleaning. If creosote is not removed, it can turn into a tarry substance that is tougher to remove. Eventually, it will harden and may begin to drip when it reaches a high temperature. It's important to make sure that creosote and soot don't build up more than 1/4 inch.
A professional chimney sweep will also inspect your chimney and the flue lining to make sure it hasn't become cracked. A cracked flue lining can lead to dangerous fires and should be fixed before you use the fireplace. If you use your fireplace frequently, you may need to have your chimney cleaned more than once a year.
- Keep your decorations and Christmas tree away from the fireplace.
Place your tree and other decorations (including stockings) a reasonable distance away from your fireplace. If you decorate your mantle, make sure that garland and other decorations do not hang down near the fire.
- Don't put wrapped gifts or packages near the fireplace.
Keep all flammable materials at least three feet away from fireplaces, wood stoves, candles, and space heaters.
- Don't put trash in the fireplace.
Attempting to burn your Christmas tree, gift boxes, or wrapping paper in the fireplace is extremely dangerous. All of these materials are highly flammable and can create deadly fires and toxic fumes.
- Be proactive.
Keep all children and pets a safe distance from fireplaces, and use fireplace screens to keep sparks and debris inside your fireplace. Keep a fire extinguisher handy near your fireplace (and stove!). If flames do flare up, you'll be able to combat them immediately. Allow any ashes in your fireplace to cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container outside. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and test them regularly to make sure they're in good working order. Carbon monoxide alarms are also a must to keep your family safe.
These tips are also appropriate for wood-burning stoves, grills, and outdoor fire pits. From all of us at Ayre/Rhinehart REALTORS®, have a wonderful holiday season! If you're considering buying a house in Midland in 2019, contact us to get your home search started.