Review fireplace safety tips before lighting a match

Now that the weather has cooled off a bit, you're thinking about using your fireplace. Perhaps you want to create a romantic atmosphere for a special occasion or maybe you're just thinking about warming up the living room for a party.

Before you strike a match, however, you need to make sure it's OK to use your fireplace. We've compiled a list of fire safety tips that covers everything from the chimney to the hearth.

You should have your chimney inspected every year, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. If it needs to be cleaned, hire a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of


If your chimney doesn't already have a cap at the top, install one. The cap can prevent animals or debris from blocking the chimney.

Don't forget to open the fireplace damper before you start your fire. It should be left open until the ashes are cool, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The open damper helps prevent a buildup of poisonous gases.

Every fireplace should be covered by screen or glass enclosure to prevent embers or sparks from escaping, said the CPSC.

Before you build your fire, be sure to have a fire extinguisher within reach, just in case your flames get out of hand. Also, look around the fireplace and hearth and remove any potentially flammable materials such as books, paper, rugs and furniture. Flammable items should be located at least three feet away from the fire.

Your home should already have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector. If it does, check the batteries on both of these before you light the fire. If not, you should install both kinds of detectors.

Charcoal should never be used in a fireplace, due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, said the CPSC. Also avoid using gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid or other fuel on your home fire. The vapors of these fuels can cause explosions.

You should keep small children and household pets away from the fireplace. Also, never leave your fire unattended.

Never burn a Christmas tree in a fireplace. The dry wood and needles create a lot of dangerous sparks and can cause a chimney fire.

Before you leave the house or go to bed, check the fire to make sure its completely out. Don't close the damper until all embers have stopped burning altogether.

Once ashes have completely cooled, place them in metal container with a lid to prevent fires.

- Compiled by Staff Writer Rachael Mason