Temperatures so frigid they’re dominating national news have gripped the northeast; that means homeowners across Maryland are igniting their fireplaces to help keep their homes toasty. With fireplaces in peak use, home fires and carbon monoxide become more prevalent. To keep your home and your family safe, you should be employing some wintertime fireplace safety tips.

Only burn your fireplace’s intended fuel.

Rule No. 1 for fireplace safety is to never burn anything other than your fireplace’s intended fuel in the fireplace. Wood-burning fireplaces should only burn wood. Pellets belong in pellet stoves. Nothing should be placed on top of gas logs. When you burn other items in your fireplace, whether it’s cardboard, wrapping paper or the remainder of your Christmas tree, you risk an unexpected spike in temperature that could damage your chimney or spark a chimney fire, faster than usual buildup of debris in your chimney or the creation of carbon monoxide in your home.

Keep the fire in the fireplace.

Keeping the fire in the fireplace sounds like a no-brainer, but this isn’t always as easy as it seems. In an open-hearth fireplace, embers can pop and fly out of the fireplace, sudden downdrafts can blow burning ashes and logs out of the fireplace or logs can shift and fall forward out of the firebox. Consider installing fire-safe glass doors in your fireplace that can be closed to keep the fire in its place, or use a mesh spark guard to keep embers from flying out of the fireplace and into your home.

Keep flammable items away from the fireplace.

Do you know the safe distance around a fireplace? All flammable items should be kept at least 3 feet away from the fireplace. Items placed too close to a fireplace can ignite due to an errant spark. Even with closed fireplace systems, including gas fireplaces and fireplace inserts, the extreme heat can cause nearby items to ignite. Furnishings, décor, and papers should be kept more than 3 feet from the fireplace. Encourage children to observe the 3-foot rule to avoid burns.

Place ashes in a closed, firesafe container.

The ashes you remove from your fireplace can cause a fire hazard, too. Embers can remain hot more than 24 hours after your fire last burned. When you clean your fireplace, place ashes in a metal box with a tight-fitting lid. Wait a few days to be sure that ashes have fully cooled before bagging ashes for disposal.

Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected annually.

Fire safety begins with your annual chimney sweeping and inspection. The chimney sweeping ensures that dangerous, fire-causing creosote has been removed from the chimney, along with any blockages that could ignite or cause a backflow of smoke and carbon monoxide. Your chimney inspection verifies that there aren’t any weaknesses or malfunctions in the fireplace or chimney system that could cause a fire or carbon monoxide buildup.

If you need the tools to keep your fireplace safe this winter, stop by Tri-County Hearth & Patio today! We carry fireplace tools and accessories, spark guards and fireplace doors to help protect your home from the risk of a hearth-related fire.