There’s nothing like curling up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. This is an inviting scene, but without the proper precautions, a stray spark could do serious damage to your home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment starts more than 54,000 home structure fires each year, causing 480 civilian deaths, 1,470 injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. Nearly 17,000 of these house fires (31 percent) begin in the fireplace, chimney or chimney connector. Lower the risk of an accident this winter by following these fireplace safety tips.

  • Schedule a chimney inspection and cleaning once a year with a certified contractor. Failure to clean the fireplace or chimney is the reason behind 71 percent of fireplace fires.
  • Before lighting your first fire of the season, check the chimney opening on the roof to ensure it’s clear of leaves, pine needles, bird nests and other debris that could block exhaust fumes.
  • Cover the chimney opening with a mesh screen spark arrestor to prevent embers from flying onto the roof and igniting a fire.
  • Trim back branches that come within a few feet of the chimney crown.
  • Store firewood outside at least 30 feet away from the walls of your home.
  • Keep the hearth free of debris, including rugs, toys, decorations and other combustible objects. While the ignition of items near the fireplace only causes 5 percent of fireplace house fires, it results in 49 percent of related civilian deaths.
  • Make the three-foot perimeter around the fireplace a “kid-free zone.”
  • Use fire-resistant building materials for the walls around the fireplace. The home’s structure or framing is the first thing to ignite in 10 percent of fireplace house fires.
  • Leave the glass doors open while burning a fire to ensure the flames receive enough oxygen. This promotes complete combustion and reduces creosote buildup in the chimney.
  • Keep the metal mesh screen closed while a fire is burning to help prevent embers from flying into the room.
  • Close the glass doors after you extinguish the fire to prevent warm air from escaping outside. If your fireplace doesn’t have a glass door, close the chimney damper to avoid wasting energy.
  • Make sure you fully extinguish the fire before leaving home or going to sleep.
  • Clean ashes from the fireplace once they are completely cool. Dispose of them in a lidded metal container.

For more tips to keep your home safe during the heating season, or to schedule fire damage restoration services in your area, please call DKI Services at 877-533-0210. We can restore your home to its pre-fire condition so you can return to life as usual.