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Wood Burning Fireplace Safety This Winter


On a cold day there is nothing quite like warming up to a wood burning fireplace. To enjoy your fire safely,be sure to take the proper steps to protect your family, home, and possessions from hazards such as chimney fires, excessive smoke and burns. For wood or pellet stoves, you’ll want to research so that you’re familiar with how operate it in a safe manner. Below is everything you need to know to relax and enjoy your wood burning fireplace and stay nice and cozy.

Have a professional Chimney Sweep Inspect

Chimney Sweep Before the season starts it’s a good time to make an appointment with a professional chimney sweep. This is a job best left to the professionals. A qualified chimney sweep can safely clear ash and creosote, a flammable chemical that can lead to chimney fires. They will perform a visual inspection of your chimney to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. Keep a record of which individual or company cleaned your chimney and when. This should be an annual inspection so make sure to arrange for annual follow up. A good directory to find a professional Chimney Sweep can be found at

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Checking both your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is an important part of our maintenance schedule, especially right before winter. You should have at least one smoke detector on each level of your home and outside each bedroom, as well as at least one carbon monoxide detector somewhere in your home (preferably in a hallway near the bedrooms). Carbon monoxide poisoning is easily avoidable if you take the proper preventative steps and exercise caution when you are building your fire. Carbon Monoxide safety information can be found here:

Safety first, looks second!

Wood burning fireplaces are often a main focal point in our homes, but decorating closely around them can be dangerous. Keep the area close to your fireplace free from blankets, pillows, pet beds, plastic items, furniture, wood, and Christmas trees. You should keep at least three feet or one metres of space between your fireplace and anything flammable. To keep your children and pets at a safe distance, put a safety screen around the wood burning fireplace. Not only will the screen protect the floor from flying embers, but will help prevent a larger fire from occurring.

Manage your wood burning fireplace

Before your first fire of the year, be sure to have the proper equipment on hand, including a fire poker, dry wood, kindling, and paper. Do not ever start a fire with gasoline or other flammable products and always make sure you keep the damper open. Once it is lit, restrict the fire to one or two logs, to reduce the risk of chimney fire. Watch your fire closely as logs are prone to shift while burning.

Put that fire out!

Before going to bed, use the poker to spread out any remaining embers so that they cool down faster. One option is to put sand over the embers to help smother them. Do not leave the room until the fire is completely out. Keep the damper open until the ashes have cooled, because a closed damper may help a fire start up again and allow carbon monoxide to build up in your home. It should be safe to remove the ashes the next morning using a shovel and an empty metal container. Store any ashes away from your home or anything else that could combust.

Although gas fireplaces are becoming more popular because of their minimal maintenance, ease of use, and affordability compared to wood burning fireplaces, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of a proper fire, as long as you are familiar with what is required.

Most areas have local laws regulating the use of fireplaces. Make sure to check with your municipality.

As always please feel free to contact an Aaxel insurance expert for advice.

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