Making sure your fireplace is fire safe

What starts out as a cozy day by the fireplace can easily escalate into a fire and fire officials say before the weather turns cold people need to do all they can to make sure their fireplace is fire safe.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) more than 1/3 of Americans use fireplaces in their homes, and unfortunately many don't know the risks involved. Information from the government website states that more than 35 percent of residential fires in rural areas stem from heating fires.

"By not having the proper ventilation the fire won't burn properly and that will cause creosote buildup and start a fire," said Lee County Asst. Fire Chief Paul Branch.

Creosote inside a chimney can act as napalm, making the fire even hotter.

"Instead of a 350 to 450 degree fire, you got a 2 to 3 thousand degree fire that's most dangerous," said professional Chimney Specialist, Leo Harrison.

The "Fireplace Man" says people should follow safety guidelines to avoid this situation.

One thing to do is make sure the fireplace inside the home has a screen to keep sparks from coming in contact with furniture or other appliances and make sure to have the chimney inspected before use.

"They need to be checked by somebody that has the ability to know what to look for that could be dangerous," said Leo Harrison

While the inspector looks over the chimney, don't neglect the outside of the home. Stack firewood at least 30 feet away from the home.

"Make sure there is no straw or debris on the roof. Make sure there are no hanging limbs on the chimney," said Branch.

The inside of the home should be equipped with smoke alarms on every level of the home...both inside and outside of sleeping areas.

Officials say as long as safety comes first, there's no reason why on can't enjoy a day in front of the fireplace.

Chimney Specialist Leo Harrison can be reached at 229-432-5296.