As you’re bringing in firewood and lighting a fire this season, it’s important to know all you can about your fireplace so that you’re using it safely and properly. The number one thing people don’t realize is that, just like a campfire, you shouldn’t leave it unattended. Sure, there is no risk of high wind blowing sparks out of the fireplace and igniting dried foliage nearby as with a campfire, but the indoor fireplace has its own risks.
It is important to make sure your fire is safely out before retreating to bed for the night or leaving the house. The only reason to leave a fire burning while you sleep is if your fire is the primary heat source for your home and your fire is in a closed unit such as a stove or insert. The closed unit will allow your fire to continue burning safely while heating your living space. However, an open fireplace should be extinguished so that there is no chance of accidental fire. In order to burn, a fire needs three key elements: fuel, heat, and oxygen. In order to properly extinguish your fire and prevent it from reigniting, you must remove one of the key elements a fire needs to burn.
Putting Out the Fire
1. First, use a long-handled shovel and poker to spread the wood, embers, and ashes in the fireplace, flattening it across the space.
2. Scoop up the ash with a long-handled shovel and cover the wood and embers. The ashes will suppress the fire from reigniting.
3. For stubborn embers and wood, pour baking soda over the heap of wood and ash. Baking soda contains the same ingredient found in a Class C fire extinguisher. Some homeowners prefer to use sand instead of baking soda as it’s easier to have on hand.
4. When the fire is completely out, you may leave it unattended. Close your custom glass doors but if your fireplace has no doors, do not shut the damper until there is no more smoke whatsoever.
What NOT to Do
When it’s time to head to bed for the night, ignore your temptation to skip any of the steps necessary to put your fire out safely and completely.
DO NOT close your damper when any ember is still burning. This will prevent smoke from rising up the flue and force it into your living space.
DO NOT cover your fire with blankets or other materials to suffocate your fire. The only thing that can safely suffocate the fire is sand (which may make a mess of your ash cleanup later.
DO NOT pour water on a hot fire. This can stop proper ventilation and push smoke and particulate pollution into the home. This method of fire extinguishment also leads to serious steam burns. Water is the last resort for an emergency situation.
DO NOT smother your fire by closing your damper and your fireplace vents. This may keep your coals burning until you’re ready to feed the fire in the morning, but it allows your fuel to burn incompletely all night long. This puts more creosote into your flue than necessary and leads to buildup and safety hazards.
Banking the Fire for Morning
In closed fireplace units only (inserts and stoves) homeowners like to save coals for the morning, conserving firewood and preventing the need to build a fire again in the morning. This is only safe when the doors are closed and the damper remains open. Many homeowners swear by a process called “banking the coals” in which hot coals are piled together and then covered over by ashes which insulate them, keeping them warm until morning. When done well the fire will be ready to burn again when the ashes are removed and wood is placed on the coals in the morning. Ask a chimney professional about banking fires, building fires, and extinguishing them. If you live in the Sacramento area and would like to find out the best way to use your fireplace, A to Z Chimney Services can help you.
Not surprisingly, many homeowners end up with fireplace and chimney systems when they acquire a new home, and they really don’t know anything about using them. Sometimes you might not even know what type of fireplace you have! The best way to find out is to contact a professional. We can identify, service, and repair any fire appliance or chimney no matter how big or how old. Our goal is that our customers are safe and warm all winter long and a huge part of meeting this need in our communities is to educate homeowners in our area.
Call A to Z Chimney Services at 916-408-2496 or contact us online. For important information about fireplace safety, click here. Make sure that all of your family and all of your guests this season know the rules for your fireplace so that everyone has a safe holiday season.