Cold winter evenings spent fireside with a mug of hot cocoa doesn’t sound like a bad way to unwind. But if you don’t operate your fireplace in the safest manner possible it could go from providing a fire to starting one. Here are three more ways to avoid a chimney fire.
Installing a Chimney Cap
If leaves are able to fall into your flue, or birds, critters, and insects are able to create nests inside, this debris can easily catch fire when it comes in contact with loose embers while your fireplace is in use. That’s why a chimney cap is so important, because it goes on the crown around the outside opening of the flue to prevent the penetration of unwanted elements like those aforementioned. As a homeowner you may choose to DIY the addition of a chimney cap, but installing one yourself could void your warranty, so you may want to call in a professional instead.
Using Safe Fire Starters
Never, never use chemicals like gas or kerosene to start your fire, as they are extremely flammable and combustible and can easily create a blaze. Don’t consider burning coal in your fireplace, either, because it can dramatically raise the temperature of the flue and increase your risk of a chimney fire. Coal is appropriate, though, for a coal-burning wood stove.
When it comes to kindling, opt for using dried twigs or branches. Steer clear of cloth because it emits lots of smoke as it burns.
Use things like old newspaper or pine cones as tinder. Avoid using items like cardboard or the glossy pages of magazines because each of them contains chemicals that can release toxins into your chimney as well as into your home.
As discussed in our previous post on preventing chimney fires, when it comes to fueling your fireplace stick to using seasoned hardwoods, which are woods that have been “cured”—cut and dried for at least 6 to 12 months. You can also use logs that are approved by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Using Clean Burning Methods
You can burn a clean fire by building it using a technique that’s referred to by the CSIA as the top-down method. According to the institute, you should first place your largest pieces of wood into your fireplace (or wood stove) with the ends of the pieces facing the front and back of the firebox. Perpendicular to the first layer of wood, stack four or five additional levels with smaller pieces of wood. Finally, lay your kindling—the smallest pieces of wood—on top, stacking with smaller and smaller pieces. You can add a final layer of tinder on top, like a piece of newspaper. Light your fire. It should burn efficiently from the top down.
Extinguishing Your Fire
Use a poker to spread out the wood and embers and cover them over with ash. Next, smother the wood and embers with baking soda (the sodium bicarbonate will put out any lingering embers). Let things cool for at least three hours then shovel the ashes into a metal container. Fill the container with water and store it outside, away from flammable items, until you’re ready to throw it away.
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