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With one-third of Americans using fireplaces to heat their homes, the risk for fires increases exponentially during wintertime. These fires are most often caused by either negligence and/or creosote buildup igniting inside chimneys. First time homeowners and people who’ve recently moved to a colder climate may not know much about fireplace and chimney care, but these structures should be professionally cleaned and inspected annually to continue functioning safely and efficiently.

In addition to regular cleanings, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of a fire. When your fireplace is in use, keep a mesh screen in front of it to prevent embers and sparks from flying out and igniting nearby objects. Similarly, keep the surrounding area clear of items that could easily catch fire. Avoid restricting the air supply when a fire is lit by opening the glass doors while in use. This ensures the flow of oxygen and prevents creosote from building up inside the chimney. However, keep the glass doors closed when the fireplace is not in use to prevent cold air from leaking into the room from the chimney opening.

To set a safe fire, use only seasoned hardwood because soft, moist wood increases creosote buildup. Avoid burning cardboard or other trash. Place logs on a grate near the rear of the fireplace and start the fire with matches as opposed to flammable liquids. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure it’s fully extinguished before leaving or going to sleep. Allow the ashes to cool, douse them with water and store outdoors in a covered metal container.

Even with safe fire practices, it’s best to prepare for the worst. Install smoke detectors in every room and carbon monoxide detectors in each central location of your home. As an extra precaution, store a fire extinguisher on each level of your home in an easily reachable location. Plan an emergency fire escape route with your family and run a practice drill at least once a year. With all of these safety measures in place, you and your family have the best chance of preventing fires and staying cozy all winter.

Protect your home and everything inside of it. Call Tabitha E. Walker Insurance Agency at (540) 657-5633 for more information on Fredericksburg home insurance.

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