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It is that time of year where many cities and states in the country have seen there first snow falls which means more cold weather to come. Many households still have and use fireplaces to heat there homes along with furnaces or instead of. Experts estimate that 25,000 chimney fires occur yearly in the United States, burning at up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and causing an estimated $125 million in property damage. Chimney fires and household fireplace accidents are not always preventable but Blue River Restoration has put together some tips to help cut down on common mistakes that could lead to a fire and make sure that your fireplace safety is up to date.

Keep the fireplace interior free of everything but a light layer of ash; this small amount of ash acts as insulation, helping future fires light more quickly and easily. Remove all other ashes to a metal container three days after each fire – any sooner and buried live coals could create a hazard. Protect the area and occupants while sweeping ashes by opening a window and wearing a dust mask. Open a window when using the fireplace is recommended to prevent the room from becoming smoky. The air coming in from the window will go up the chimney. Never use a vacuum to clean up ashes, because live coals may remain in those ashes. Also, smaller pieces of wood placed on a grate burn faster and produce less smoke.

Making sure that the chimney is clean and not obstructed is important to check regularly. Smaller conflagrations damage chimneys, prompt expensive repairs, and make future chimney fires more likely. Regular maintenance helps homeowners safely enjoy a fireplace’s wonderful ambiance while minimizing its risks. Trim tree limbs that encroach on the top of the chimney and invest in a chimney cap that prevents debris and animals from entering the tight space. Blocking the chimney exit, even partially, presents a fire hazard and restricts airflow across the chimney top. When fires lack oxygen they burn more slowly, and incomplete combustion may form poisonous carbon monoxide. Surprisingly, ensuring a clear chimney may also help furnaces run more smoothly. Many chimneys have more than one flue.

Other than having your normal fireplace brass tools nearby, it is important to keep a fire extinguisher on hand. It may also be a good idea to keep a nonflammable rug (available at fireplace-supply stores) in front of the fireplace so that sparks won’t melt or otherwise damage your carpeting. Fire is nothing something to mess around with and fireplace safety is something to take seriously. At the end of the day, fire can be controlled if you are using smart tactics and being safe.

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