Lounging in front of a blazing fireplace is a great way to relax on a cold wintry night. A wood fire is beautiful, enchanting and exotic, that is, when it stays inside the fireplace. If it escapes from there, it can become dangerous, especially if you're not paying attention or something unpredictable occurs. Here's some information on how to make sure that the fire stays safely within the fireplace.
1. Most chimney cleaners recommend that you to have the flue cleaned every year and the hearth, damper, chimney and ducts inspected as well. If you only use dry firewood in your fireplace, they might recommend a cleaning and inspection every other year. The type of wood use is very important. Green wood contains sap that can coat your chimney with a material called creosote. Many house fires occur when creosote deposits catch fire. To reduce creosote buildup, you can purchase some special additives, usually encased within a log, that you can burn, but nothing replaces the effectiveness of a cleaning and an inspection.
2. Before starting a fire, always be sure that the chimney flue damper is opened sufficiently to allow the fire and smoke to flow from the fireplace up into the chimney. You'll know something needs to be readjusted if smoke is billowing into the house. Be careful! The fire will often flow in the direction that the air is moving (yikes, from the fireplace to inside your house!).
3. Sparks often explode out of fireplaces. Placing flame resistant carpet near the fireplace opening will prevent unwanted fires. With that in mind, a whiskbroom and dustpan are handy for collecting up any embers or combustibles outside of the fireplace.
4. Place the firewood on the support grate so that it won't roll out of the fireplace when the fire settles and shifts. Don't stack the firewood much higher than the front of the grate and angle it so that if it does move, it'll only roll to either side of the fireplace. Too much firewood can also have the possibility of creating more sparks. Also, if you use green firewood, the sap will become superheated and explode with a loud pop, possibly shooting meteor-like embers in every direction.
5. Most fireplaces have a metallic-mesh screen to deflect sparks back into the fireplace. Don't place logs near the screen. The flames could suddenly flare and extend beyond the screen. Always keep the screen closed when you're not loading more firewood into the fireplace. Be sure that the screen has no gaps in it.
6. Have the right tools for handling a fire. When adjusting the fire, it's better to use a tool that can firmly grip the logs like a claw. Never take on more weight than you can handle. A poker is good for nudging logs into place or breaking them up. Be mindful that a quick crackle of sparks can occur when you rearrange the fire.
7. If you'd like for the fire to die out, you can dampen it by spreading the embers around so that less heat is generated. If you need to, add some water to douse the fire. Most fireplaces have doors, like glass windows, to seal off the fireplace from the house. Make sure these are closed securely if you're not going to be there to attend to the fire.
8. Apart from all that, think about what you'd like to do while cozying up in front of the fireplace. A nice companion and some homemade, fresh, buttered bread and hot cocoa work well for me!