MLT Community Policing Advisory Board Safety Tips: Fireplace and home fire safety

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Fireplace safety 001The Mountlake Terrace Community Policing Advisory Board, a citizen board commissioned by the City of Mountlake Terrace, issues a monthly “Safety Tips” release for ongoing public safety and awareness. Here are the tips for March 2014:

Fireplace and home fire safety
Heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) encourages you to practice the following fire safety tips to keep those home fires safely burning. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility … Fire Stops With You!

Keep fireplaces and wood stoves clean
– 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.
-Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces. Otherwise, creosote can buildup which could lead to a chimney fire.

Safely burn fuels
– Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
– Use seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only seasoned wood pellets.
– Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
– 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.

Protect your home
– Cover the chimney with a mesh screen spark arrester.
– 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.
– Provide proper venting systems for all heating equipment.

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