Fireplace Safety Tips: 8 Ways to Stay Warm and Safe

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 16, 2024

You bring in the wood or prep the gas log and get ready to light the fireplace for its first winter evening. Everyone loves to gather around the flickering glow and bask in the warm company of family and friends.

Everyone wants to stay safe too. When was the last time you sat down and reviewed fireplace safety tips?

Practicing fire safety at home saves lives and property. When you understand the basics, it’s easy to relax and enjoy a cozy evening by the fire. As one of Chicago’s largest fire restoration contractors, we want to make sure you and your family stay safe around the fireplace.

Fireplace Fires: How They Happen

When you think about different home heating equipment that can set the house on fire, you probably don’t picture the fireplace. Still, that favorite family spot comes in second only to space heaters. Fireplace and chimney fires account for more than 30 percent of heating equipment fires and are most often caused by:

• Embers sparking from a burning fire into the room.
• Flammables like paper and fabric too close to the fireplace.
• Creosote buildup in the chimney that ignites and erupts into flames.

Staying Safe and Warm at Home: 8 Wood Burning Fireplace Safety Tips

It only takes a few seconds for a tiny spark to turn into dangerous flames. A house fire can spread very quickly especially through modern homes with open floor plans. Keep your family safe and warm by following these eight fireplace safety tips.

1. Get Off to a Clean Start

Minimize the chances of a creosote fire by having the chimney cleaned every year. A professional chimney sweep also clears out problems like animal nests and debris that can start dangerous chimney fires.

2. Be Choosy About Fuel

Always use dry, cured wood when you build a fire. If you’re tempted to chop your own, be prepared to let it age for at least eight months. Burning green wood produces smoke that adds to creosote buildup in the chimney.

Power Tip: Cover the top of an outdoor woodpile, but help it stay dry by leaving sides open to air circulation.

3. Check the Damper

Make sure the damper works properly and opens all the way before you light a fire. Leave it open until the fire is out and all embers are extinguished.

Power Tip: A flashlight and mirror can make it easier to reach a damper lever or chain.

4. Build It Safely

Build a stable fire by starting with two small logs positioned 6 inches apart. Fill in the space with kindling, and place two more logs on top perpendicular to the base. Light the kindling, and gradually add more wood.

5. Watch the Kids

Fireplace safety for babies and children is simple: Watch them constantly. Keep fireplace tools, matches and lighters out of reach. Teach the kids about the importance of fire safety and following house rules.

6. Never Leave It Alone

A house fire can fill your home with flames and toxic smoke in just a few minutes. Never leave a lit fireplace unattended. Make sure it’s completely out before leaving the house or going to bed.

7. Be Ready for Flare-Ups

When a dangerous situation flares up in the fireplace, you have very little time to react. Be ready for emergencies with a home fire extinguisher, a fireplace extinguisher or fireplace suppression products.

8. Be Prepared With a Plan

One of the most important fireplace safety tips starts with family fire safety planning. Sit down together, and develop strategies that cover everything from annual smoke detector maintenance to home fire evacuation routes.

Extra Power Tips: Gas Fireplace Safety

In general, safe gas fireplace operation follows the same guidelines that apply to wood burning fireplaces. The following tips serve as important additional precautions.

• Let the unit cool completely before cleaning logs and fan parts with a damp cloth.
• Make sure air circulation passages and vents are clear of obstructions.
• Have a licensed professional inspect gas fireplace components once a year.
• If you smell gas, leave the house immediately, and call 911.

Keeping Your Favorite Traditions Safe

fire restoration van

Lighting the fireplace for the first time is always a favorite winter tradition. It’s one you should enjoy safely every year, so print out our tips, and use them in your family’s home fire safety planning. If you have suggestions for our guide, share your ideas through our Comments Section.

We want to help you keep all your traditions safe all year-long. With headquarters in Chicago and Skokie, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba stands ready to respond anytime you need fire cleanup near you. As the leader among Chicago fire restoration contractors, we wish everyone across the city a wonderful holiday season.