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IN OUR VIEW/Fireplace Safety: Stay warm, but stay safe

January 3, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.

Well, our area finally got its first real blast of this season's winter weather.

We know many are not fans of the cold. But the lower temperatures -- however fleeting -- are welcome by some as a sign of the season.

Few things put one in the winter mood more than a roaring fireplace -- or a wood-burning stove if your prefer. A warm room is a great comfort when the thermometer dips outside.

Yes, we know some readers have been waiting for an excuse to start up the fireplace. But there are some important safety considerations.

The U.S. Fire Administration has these tips for safe operation of a fireplace or wood stove:

- Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.

- Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.

- Leave glass doors open while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.

- Close glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen which should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.

- Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces that do not have a glass fireplace door.

- Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.

- Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.

- Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.

- Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.

- Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn

- When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.

- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.

- Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trash can. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.

- Keep the roof clear of leaves, pine needles and other debris.

- Remove branches hanging above the chimney, flues or vents.

- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Consider installing the new long life smoke alarms.

- Extend all vent pipes at least three feet above the roof.

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