Fireplaces are inviting, warm and great way to reduce heating bills, but they can be dangerous.
A National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) study found that nearly three-fifths of home structure fires involving fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney connectors occurred in December, January, and February (57%). January was the peak month for fireplace related injuries.
According to the NFPA Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment Report, failure to clean is one of the major causes (68%) for home fires ignited by fireplaces and chimneys. Another factor that contributes to fireplace related fires is storing combustible items too close to the heat source such as paper, plastic, furniture and chemicals.
Whether you use your fireplace for aesthetics or heat, everyone should take precautions to prevent home fires.
“One of the best ways to protect your family is to have fire sprinklers installed in your home if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove,” explains David Kurasz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB). “Fire Sprinkler heads react within seconds, often subduing the fire even before the fire department can arrive.”
Fire Sprinklers will only activate when ambient heat levels exceed their specific temperature rating. Residential fire sprinkler heads are typically rated to activate at 155 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much higher than normal fireplace/stove operation levels. And, only those sprinkler heads nearest the heat source will activate.
Kurasz adds, “Sprinklers are a great safety option that enable you to enjoy the warmth of the fire, while protecting your family and property from the devastation that home fires can cause.”
Here are some additional safety tips to prevent fireplace & chimney fires:
- Have a qualified professional inspect the fireplace and related structures
- Clean fireplace and chimney annually
- Burn seasoned firewood, not green wood, to reduce creosote and combustion byproducts
- Do not burn plastic or use flammable fuels in the fireplace
- Install a sturdy fireplace screen to control sparks
- Keep fireplace hearth and area clear of combustibles – including pillows, rugs and furniture
- Place a fire-retardant rug in front of the hearth
- Use proper ventilation
- Remove ashes when cooled and store in a metal container a safe distance outside the home
- Create a 3-foot Kid-Free-Zone around fireplaces/wood burning stoves/heaters
As an added note, it is always safest to never leave a burning fire unattended or when you retire for the evening. The NFPA found that most fires involving fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney connectors occurred on weekends between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Only 9% of fires occurred between midnight and 6 a.m., but these overnight fires accounted for 29% of civilian deaths, 35% of civilian injuries, and 25% of direct property damage.
For more information about fireplace safety and related topics visit these resources:
- NFPA Top Causes of Home Fires
- NFPA Flyer on Heating Safety Tips
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: Tips of Fireplace Safety
- This Old House: How to Prepare Your Fireplace for the Season
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Reducing Fireplace and Heating Source Injuries for Children
- Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA): Tips for Preventing Chimney Fires
- CSIA Video Preventing Chimney Fires: https://youtu.be/5naTJFqFaUg
- HGTV: Fireplace Maintenance and Safety Tips
- HGTV Video Fireplace Safety: http://www.hgtv.com/videos/fireplace-safety-91560