Fireplace Safety

People who lived earlier this century remember the common occurrence of chimney fires.

Many children died from burns - from fireplaces as well as ranges and the hot water that had to be carried from room to room; if you are going to use a fireplace for a coal or wood fire, take these precautions:

  • make sure the chimney is not capped or blocked in some way; light a taper or use a smoke pellet to check that smoke is drawn up the chimney; open a window first to increase the draught
  • have the chimney swept, preferably before, once during and again at the end of the winter; the unburnt deposits of tar and carbon are flammable and also reduce the draught. As a minimum, have it swept at the end of the winter to remove the new soot.
  • if you are in any doubt about the maintenance of the chimney, have it checked internally and above the roof; if a chimney has been damp for a long period, the acids in old soot can eat into the mortar in the flue and, in the worst cases, allow fumes into other rooms and an adjacent house. A stained or, when a fire is established, a hot chimney breast is an indication that the mortar is in poor condition.
  • you must have a fireproof hearth; this may be tiled or stone
  • you should use a fender, to catch any embers that pop out of the fire
  • if you are burning wood, a fine mesh guard is recommended to catch cinders
  • if you have children, invest in a wrap-around guard that fixes to the wall either side