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Fireplace season requires some precautions

By: Laura Newell, Features Editor
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As the weather gets colder, fireplaces start to warm homes and keep families cozy indoors. But before residents burn, there are a few things to prepare.

John Haberek, Folsom Fire Department division chief, said simple things like having your chimney, fireplace or wood stove inspected and cleaned every fall just before heating season can help prevent house fires and dangerous situations.

“It can become a fire danger to not regularly clean a chimney and fireplace because over time, the chimney can build up creosote (a gummy, coal tar substance) which is flammable,” Haberek said. “At some point the creosote can ignite if it gets too hot and start a chimney fire.”

He said wear-and-tear from years of fires can also require yearly maintenance.

“The constant use of a fireplace with heating and cooling, can cause the chimney to crack,” he said. “If a chimney cracks, it will not work as expected and can start pumping hot air through the crack into a house frame. This can eventually cause a house fire.”

Other important items to take care of before burning include having the installation of a fireplace done by a professional, making sure your heating equipment is allowed in your community and having a sturdy screen on the fireplace. Yearly cleaning and inspections should also be done by professionals, he said.

Steve Peverini owns A-1 Chimney and Home Services in Sacramento. A-1 Chimney offers professional chimney cleaning and safety inspections in the Folsom region and surrounding area up to Placerville.

“A homeowner may not have the expertise and training to correctly and effectively clean a home fireplace thoroughly and safely,” Peverini said. “We are trained to understand problems and fix them. We have all the tools and training to do this correctly.”

He said all A-1 Chimney technicians are licensed and insured.

For more information on A-1 Chimney, call (916) 927-4235 or visit a1chimneyinc.com.

Haberek also recommends keeping anything that can burn at least three feet away from the fireplace or wood stove. When burning, he said it’s important to burn well-seasoned wood that has been split, stacked and allowed to dry for 12 months.

After the fire is out, he said do not just toss burnt ashes into a trash can. He said ashes must be allowed to cool before disposing them into a metal container.

“Ash is very fine and hot and builds up heat,” Haberek said. “So when it is in a plastic container or paper bag, it can easily cause a fire. So it’s important to let the fireplace ash cool completely in a medal container.”

To further protect the home from fireplace dangers, residents should install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes and test smoke alarms monthly.

“I always suggest that families have escape plans made out in case of a fire,” Haberek said. “You can make it a game for kids.”

For more information on fireplace safety, he recommends visiting the National Fire Protection Association website, nfpa.org.