Fireplace and chimney safety tips from state fire marshal’s office

As the days get shorter and nights longer, the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office reminds everyone about fireplace and chimney safety.

Chimney fires can result in the loss of your home and result in injuries and deaths if they have not been properly maintained. Almost half of all heating-related fires occur in the months of December, January and February. In the U.S. there were over 22,000 fires on average reported to be related to home heating. The leading factor contributing to chimney fires is the failure to clean, mainly the creosote that builds up in the chimney. Creosote is the byproducts of combustion left in your chimney walls and is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities, and the internal flue temperature of your chimney is high enough, the result could end up being a chimney fire.

Here are a few tips to keep your fireplace running efficiently and safely:

– Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected every other year by a qualified professional depending on the frequency of use.

– Use only newspaper and kindling wood or fire starters to start a fire. Never use flammable liquids, such as lighter fluid, kerosene, gel or ethanol fuel or gasoline.

– Burn only dry, seasoned wood. This is cleaner for the environment and creates less creosote buildup in the chimney.

– Keep flammable items, such as stacked wood, blankets, or other decorations, at least three feet away from the fireplace. This includes children and pets and anything hanging down from a hearth above.

– Use a metal or glass screen in front of a fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out during use.

– Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home.

– Put all burned ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside, at least 3 feet from your home.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 150 people die on average per year from carbon monoxide poisoning related to the use of fireplaces when the chimney flue isn’t working correctly due to the malfunctions caused by the lack of maintenance.

The Washington State Department of Health reported that in the years 2016-2020, there were 44 deaths attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning. If the chimney flue isn’t operational, crack a window open for a fresh supply of air. Also, make sure to install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms inside your home to alert you in case of carbon monoxide accumulation.

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