When the temperatures get low, the chances of a fire breaking out go up. That’s because citizens tend to plug in space heaters, stoke fires, and turn on their furnaces, all of which could lead to a fire if the resident isn’t careful. Fireplaces are particularly hazardous under the right conditions. One estimate pegs the number of chimney fires annually at around 28,000, with each costing up to $10,000 worth of property damage. To ensure that you won’t fall victim to this kind of disaster, consider a few tips out of Texas that would be just as applicable for Californians intent on preserving safety.
First, one should understand the differences between gas and wood burning fireplaces and react accordingly. If you have the former, make sure you get it cleaned on an annual basis so that you know there’s no risk of a buildup of carbon monoxide.
If, however, you have a wood fireplace, then make sure the wood you use is in the type of condition that would foster safety. Such wood should be chopped apart up to a year in advance so that enough time passes to drain the log of moisture that impedes the log’s ability to catch a flame.
You might also consider purchasing a spark arrester. These items are put in place in order to prevent cinders from bursting out the top of the chimney and catching fire on any nearby surfaces, be they the roof of a neighbor’s home or a tree in the vicinity.
It’s also important to take steps to limit the potential for a fire to break out inside the home. Any flammable items should be kept far away from the fireplace. This being the beginning of January, it’s always possible that you might have wrapping paper or other decorations lying around. Make sure you move these if you intend to light a fire. To further prevent a blaze, make sure you close the screen on your fireplace. That way, no large embers will drift out, nor will larger logs that could pose a serious hazard. To limit the danger from the latter, make sure your hearth extends outward from the wall by at least a foot and a half, maybe even more.
Finally, don’t mess around if you sense that a fire has broken out in the chimney. This is typically signified by a loud whooshing noise akin to a jet moving past your home. When this occurs, get your family out of the residence immediately and dial 911 when you’re safely outside. There’s no need to take chances in this kind of situation.