Nothing compares to curling up by a crackling fire with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book in hand. While this inviting scene evokes feelings of peace and tranquility, operating a poorly maintained fireplace could have devastating results.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nearly 17,000 home structure fires per year begin in the fireplace, chimney, or chimney connector. Many of these fires could be avoided if homeowners performed proper maintenance. Here’s how to care for and safely use your wood-burning fireplace.

Clean Up the Fireplace at the Start of the Season

Before using your fireplace for the first time this winter, it’s important to clear away any residual debris from the previous year. Creosote, a tar-like substance that clings to chimney walls, is particularly hazardous. Allowing this extremely flammable material to accumulate unchecked could increase your fire risk.

Exposure to creosote dust can be harmful to your health, so it’s recommended that you arrange professional cleaning once a year at the start of the heating season. In addition to removing creosote buildup, a fireplace technician will also thoroughly inspect the system to ensure safe, proper operation. Working with a chimney and fireplace professional reduces hazards and allows you to enjoy peace of mind as you keep warm all season long.

Clean Up Debris

Wood-burning fireplaces require routine cleaning throughout the season as well. Plan to remove ashes once they begin to smell or inhibit your ability to build a fire. Allow the ashes to cool completely before removing them, which takes about 72 hours.

If your fireplace has an ash dump, push the ashes through the metal plate in the floor of the firebox. Then, scoop or sweep up the remaining ashes. You can also vacuum them up with a special ash canister vacuum cleaner. Feel free to sprinkle the ashes over your flowerbeds to provide a natural source of nutrients come spring.

Inspect the Chimney Cap

If you’re comfortable getting on the roof, you can check the condition of your chimney cap yourself. Otherwise, leave this to a professional during your annual fireplace and chimney inspection. Make sure a cap is installed, has the proper spark arrester in place, and is not obstructed by animal nests.

Burn Clean Wood

One of the most important fireplace safety tips is to burn the right wood. Purchase cleaned and seasoned wood or manufactured logs to reduce creosote buildup. Avoid burning treated wood, plastic, rubber, garbage, and colored paper in your fireplace as these produce excessive smoke and toxic fumes.

Seek Fire Damage Restoration Services

If your home is damaged from a fireplace incident this winter, turn to DKI for help. We are proud to be an elite disaster restoration contracting organization with over 500 service providers around the country ready to help. Our fire damage restoration services consist of smoke and soot removal, deodorization, and structural cleaning. You can trust our cutting-edge techniques and systematic approach to ensure a safe environment for your family to return to.

Learn more about our fire restoration services or request assistance—contact us online or call 844-354-2255 today.