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How to Properly Put Out a Fire

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.

Extinguish the Fire for Safetyclose up of fire in firebox

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.

Fall Fireplace Mantel Decor Ideas

Your fireplace has most likely been out of commission this summer but hopefully has been cleaned and inspected already! During the offseason homeowners don’t have to worry about the fireplace unless there’s a problem, but fall is the hearth’s time to shine! Your fireplace is not only a valuable heat source but also the focal point of your entire home. When it’s time to light your fire, it’s also a great time to think about decorating your fireplace and mantel for the fall season and for the holidays.

Safety Firstcozy living room with fall decor

It’s important to do all you can to keep your fireplace safe and free of clutter even when decorating. It’s not enough to have a safe and clean chimney system and know how to use it properly, you must also make sure that your decorations are safe as well. Coming into the fall and then the holiday season, homeowners will begin to decorate the fireplace. It’s a perfect backdrop for all of your family festivities but can quickly turn to disaster if certain precautions aren’t followed.

Things to Remember When Decorating the Mantel

1. Do not leave decorative items hanging above the fireplace. Garland and lights should be properly secured to the fireplace.

2. Freestanding decorations should be kept far enough away from the fireplace opening that if it falls, it will be a safe distance from the fire.

3. Nothing should be put inside or too near a fireplace, even when the fire is out. Debris left inside a fireplace can become a serious fire hazard when a fire is burning.

4. Anything attached to the chimney above the mantel should be installed properly and only if your certified chimney sweep deems it safe.

5. Always use decorations that are flame-retardant. Do not place dried branches, limbs, or any organic material near your fireplace or on your mantel.

Mantel Ideas from the Professionals

Melons and Fruits – Melons and apples are a beautiful decoration for the fall and are not flammable. You can pair pumpkins and gourds with vases full of turned leaves. Plastic leaves are not as flammable as dried leaves and placing them in vases keeps them contained. You can also fill large vases or bowls with the apples to keep them from rolling.

Photos – Family or fall photos are a great way to decorate the mantel. Include decorative photos of leaves, landscapes, and holiday combinations between family photos.

Metal – Some bronzed or buffed metal can be the perfect shade to compliment the changing seasons. Metal vases, pitchers, candleholders, and baskets can create a great look for your mantel and keep items safely contained and away from the fire.

Early Christmas – Let Christmas come early by bringing together rustic scenes, photos, silhouettes, and garland. The mantel and fireplace are exactly where the holiday spirit thrives in the house, and the magic will begin with the first spark of the fire.

For more ideas, check out MidwestLiving’s “28 Fall Mantel Ideas” and “50 Gorgeous Holiday Mantel Decorating Ideas”.

We want you to love your mantel and your holiday fireplace, but not at the expense of safety!

If you have any concerns with the safety of your fireplace, contact A to Z Chimney Services to schedule a chimney sweep or diagnostic inspection today Call us at 916-408-2496 or contact us online.

It’s Fire Prevention Week: Are you ready?

Fireplaces, space heaters, Christmas trees and holiday candles: It’s easy to see why home fires are more common during the fall and winter months. To help keep homes and families safe, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has declared Oct. 7 through Oct. 13 its annual Fire Prevention Week. This year’s Fire Prevention Week is encouraging people across the county to “Look. Listen. Learn. Be Aware. Fire Can Happen Anywhere.”Fire prevention week prevents home fires like this one

Look.

The first step in decreasing your home’s winter safety risk is: Look. Look around your home for potential fire hazards. Hazards include overloaded extension cords or electrical outlets; fireplaces or chimneys that have not been swept or inspected before being used for the season; clothing dryer vents that haven’t been cleaned within a year; appliances like irons and curling irons that are left plugged in and unattended; and candles that are too close to combustible and that could be knocked over by a pet or a small child. Also take a look at your home’s heating appliances. There should be a minimum of a 3-foot “safety zone” around fireplaces, heating stoves, furnaces and space heaters that are left free of flammable items such as furniture, books, pillows, blankets, curtains or other items that could catch fire and spread.

Listen.

Know to listen for the sound of smoke alarms in your home. According to the NFPA, a working smoke alarm can cut your risk of dying in home fire by half. Make sure any children in your home know what your smoke alarms sound like and what they should do if they hear smoke alarms going off. Check your home to be sure it’s equipped with enough smoke alarms; there should be a smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every sleeping area. Each fall, test your smoke alarm to be sure they are in working condition. Get help when you test your smoke alarms; have someone stand at the opposite end of your home while you push the test button to be sure that they can hear the alarm going off. You should be able to hear at least one smoke alarm sounding from every area of your home and sounding loud enough to wake you up or alert you to a problem.

Learn.

Just having smoke detectors and listening for the sound of your smoke detectors isn’t enough. You and your family should have a plan of action for what to do when the smoke detectors sound. Your plan should include at least two ways out of every room in your home, a meeting place a safe distance from your home and a plan for calling 911 in the event of a fire. Make sure everyone in your home knows the plan well enough to execute it in an emergency; that might include practicing your fire exit plan, especially if you have small children in your home.

If you need help keeping your home safe from a home fire this winter, A to Z Chimney Services can help! We can sweep and inspect your chimney; service your fireplace or heating stove; or clean your clothing dryer vents to be sure that these appliances aren’t posing a risk in your home.

New Year’s Spring Cleaning Resolution: Dryer Vent Cleaning

Many homeowners ramp up their home maintenance routine after the new year. Spurred by resolutions for a cleaner home, driven inside by winter weather and gearing up for full-blown spring cleaning, countless homeowners are tackling big jobs this time of year. For homeowners tackling home maintenance tasks that are often neglected, the new year is a perfect time for a dryer vent cleaning.

Why You Need to Have Your Dryer Vents Cleaned

Many homeowners don’t realize that they’re clothing dryer vents need to be cleaned and inspected just like their chimneys! That’s because every time you dry a load of clothes, damp lint bypasses the lint screen and enters the vent. That damp, sticky lint sticks to the walls of the vent and then to more lint. Over time, all of that sticky lint can form dangerous clogs in the dryer vent. When your dryer vents are clogged, the heat and exhaust can’t exit the dryer. This causes the dryer to overheat, which is a major fire hazard.

Because of the fire danger posed by clogged dryer vents, home maintenance professionals recommend having your dryer vents professionally cleaned at least once per year. If you dry a lot of clothing and linens, you might need to have your dryer vents cleaned more frequently! During your professional dryer vent cleaning, your dryer vents will not only be cleared from dangerous lint, but they also will be inspected to ensure that they are unobstructed from outside plants or debris, that they are the proper size and recommended material and that they are damage free.

How to Tell if Your Dryer Vents Need to be Cleaned

If you’re not sure if your dryer vent needs cleaned, look for the signs! Clogged dryer vents inhibit the proper function of your dryer. That’s why you might notice these signs if your dryer vents are overdue for a cleaning:

• Loads of clothing take longer to dry than usual,

• A burning smell when the dryer is running,

• The dryer or laundry room feeling hot when the dryer is running, and

• An overly strong small of fabric softer or must when the dryer is running.

Who to Call for Dryer Vent Cleaning

If you’re ready to start your year off with a properly cleaned home and clean clothing dryer vents,  call A to Z Chimney Services and Dryer Vent Cleaning to schedule an appointment today! Not only will you lower your home’s fire risk and make your home cleaner, but you’ll enjoy shorter laundry drying time and lower home energy bills, and you’ll extend the life of your dryer.

Relining: The Dangers of an Unlined Chimney

Do you know what’s inside your chimney? Many homeowners assume that the chimney structure itself is all that’s needed to vent smoke from their fireplaces and keep their homes safe from a chimney fire. But it takes more than a hollow chimney tube to protect your chimney: Your chimney needs a chimney liner.

Why You Need a Chimney Liner

Since the early part of the 20th century, properly constructed chimneys were built with chimney liners inside. In a traditional chimney, liners are built from specialized clay tiles, though prefabricated fireplaces often include metal chimney liners that are optimal for the appliance. Chimney liners are responsible for several important functions including:

  • Keeping your home safe from a chimney fire. Chimney liners insulate the chimney from the rest of the home to keep the building materials surrounding the chimney from igniting. In fact, in laboratory tests, construction materials abutting unlined chimneys ignited within four hours of lighting a fire in the fireplace.
  • Protecting your chimney structure. The soot and creosote that build up within your chimney are damaging to masonry materials. A chimney liner helps to protect your chimney structure from breakdown due to soot and creosote.
  • Creating a proper draft. When the inside of your chimney isn’t the optimal size, shape, and height for your fireplace, smoke won’t flow properly up and out of your chimney and can leave your house filled with smoke.

How To Know if Your Chimney is Lined

It’s crucial to know that your chimney is lined and that your chimney liner is in good shape. All chimney liners can break down over time, cracking from exposure to extreme heat or crumbling due to exposure to moisture. The only way to be sure that your chimney is lined and in good condition is to have your chimney swept and inspected at least once per year. If you’ve never had your chimney inspected, your chimney sweep can confirm the presence of a chimney liner and that the liner is solid enough to continue protecting your home. Regular, annual chimney inspections ensure that any deterioration within the chimney liner is spotted

What To Do if Your Chimney Liner is Damaged

If your chimney is unlined, or the liner has been damaged to the point of no longer being safe, you don’t need to worry! Lining — or relining — a chimney is a relatively simple process. An unlined chimney, or a chimney with a damaged liner, can be quickly lined with a stainless steel chimney liner. Or, if you have a damaged clay tile chimney liner, it can be fixed easily with a specialized refractory cement. If you’re concerned your chimney doesn’t have a liner or if you’re concerned that your liner might be in disrepair, call A to Z Chimney Services to schedule an inspection today!