Brrrr! It has been cold this week in Michigan and it is time to get the fireplace going. Before you start a fire to cozy up the cabin, make sure that things are in safe order. According to the American Red Cross, nearly 36,000 fires and 250 deaths occur each year from portable heaters, fireplaces, and chimneys.
You can find out a lot about fireplace and chimney safety by reviewing the latest edition of NFPA 211: Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances. Your local Authority having Jurisdiction may have also established guidelines for you to follow in your area so it would be wise to check with them as well.
Here are the 9 steps we recommend in order to maintain a safe fireplace:
- Trim back limbs from the chimney at least 10 feet.
- Follow the local fire recommendations directing when it is allowed to have a fire depending on the weather, humidity and wind conditions.
- Check to ensure that the chimney cap was not damaged and is cleaned out.
- Have the chimney cleaned by a licensed chimney sweep and made sure that animal and bird nests are removed.
- Ensure that the draft is working properly.
- Check the ember screen on the front of my fireplace.
- Remove anything flammable from the front of the fireplace and installed a 3-foot area in front of the fireplace that is rock. You might want to use fire resistant mats that can be purchased to put over carpeted areas in front of the fireplace.
- Make sure your fire extinguisher serviced & close by.
- Have a small galvanized can with a locking lid to keep old ash and hot coals in when you clean out the fireplace. Keep this outside — not on the porch, but in an area that is free of grass and weeds.
As the fire crackles in the fireplace sip a nice hot cocoa and relax knowing that you have prepared your fireplace for a safe cold weather season!