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Picture this. Santa finally arrives at your house on Christmas Eve. He has a sack full of toys and a heart full of holiday spirit. With surprising agility he shimmies down your chimney, fully prepared to the drop off a bunch of presents and grab a cookie on his way out.
But wait. There’s a squirrel nest in your chimney! Santa is attacked by a protective mother-squirrel and he tumbles down to your fireplace, landing with a heavy thump. But that’s not the end. It turns out there were a few embers leftover from your Christmas Eve fire. In seconds, Santa’s coat sleeve catches on fire and he’s shaking it wildly until you rush down and spray him with your handy fire extinguisher.
Not really a funny story, right? Don’t let this happen to your house on Christmas Eve! Protect your family (and Santa) with these fireplace safety tips.
Before starting your first fire of the season, check your flue for obstructions like leaves, animal nests (especially birds) and other debris that may have accumulated up there. The easiest way to do this is to shine a flashlight up the flue using a mirror. Contact a chimney sweep if you see anything that looks dubious. For more details on inspecting your chimney, read: Inspect and Prepare Your Wood-Burning Fireplace.
As much as possible, only burn dense woods (like oak or elm) that have been stored in a dry area for a few months. Soft, wet woods produce more soot and ash when they burn, which will build up in your chimney and eventually create a fire hazard.
It’s tempting to build a massive fire around this time of year to kindle the holiday spirit, but it’s also dangerous. Big fires produce more smoke, and if you really go all out you can actually crack your chimney from the extra heat. Be smart: build a small- or medium-sized fire.
If you don’t have one, it’s worth purchasing a mesh screen or glass door for your fireplace. This will prevent embers from leaping out of the fireplace and onto your carpet or clothes!
Allow your fire to burn all the way down and for the ashes to fully cool. Then place the ashes in a metal (or other fireproof) container and douse them with water. Empty the container at least 10 feet away from your house and other nearby buildings. Never dump ashes directly into a trash can inside your house. That’s asking for a fire!