Brrrr! It has been cold this week in the California mountains and it was time to get the fireplace going. Before I started a fire to cozy up the cabin, I made sure that things were in Firewise order. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2010, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported U.S. home structure fires. Given these sobering statistics, it's important to ensure your home and your fireplace are cold-weather ready.
You can find out a lot about fireplace and chimney safety by reviewing the latest edition of NFPA 211: Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances. Your local Authority having Jurisdiction may have also established guidelines for you to follow in your area so it would be wise to check with them as well.
Look for more great information, reports, safety tips and resources regarding home heating on NFPA's consumer safety pages.
Here are the 9 steps I took in order to maintain a Firewise fireplace in my cabin:
- I trimmed back limbs from the chimney at least 10 feet.
- I followed the local fire recommendations directing when it is allowed that I have a fire depending on the weather, humidity and wind conditions.
- I checked to make sure that the chimney cap was not damage and was cleaned out.
- I had the chimney cleaned by a licensed chimney sweep and made sure that animal and bird nests were removed.
- I made sure that the draft was working properly.
- I checked the ember screen on the front of my fireplace.
- I removed anything flammable from the front of the fireplace and installed a 3-foot area in front of the fireplace that is rock. You might want to use fire resistant mats that can be purchased to put over carpeted areas in front of the fireplace.
- I got my fire extinguisher serviced.
- I purchased a small galvanized can with a locking lid to keep old ash and hot coals in when I clean out the fireplace. This is kept outside -- not on the porch, but in an area that is free of grass and weeds.
As the fire crackled in the fireplace and I sipped a nice hot cocoa, I relaxed knowing that I had prepared my fireplace for a safe cold weather season! For more helpful information about how your home can be Firewise go to http://www.firewise.org.