Keeping Children Safe Around Fireplaces

Winter is here, and it’s time for a cozy, warm fire.  There are dangers for children associated with that fire.  The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips to keep children safe around fireplaces.

  • If possible, keep a window cracked open while the fire is burning.
  • Be certain the damper or flue is open before restarting a fire.  Keeping the damper or flue open until the fire is out will draw smoke out of the house.  The damper can be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror.  Do not close the damper until the embers have completely stopped burning.
  • Use dry and well-aged wood.  Wet or green wood causes more smoke and contributes to soot buildup in the chimney.  Dried wood burns with less smoke and burns more evenly.
  • Smaller pieces of wood placed on a grate burn faster and produce less smoke.
  • Clean out ashes from previous fires.  Level of ash at base of the fireplace should be kept to 1 inch or less because a thicker layer restricts the air supply to logs, resulting in more smoke.  Never dispose of hot ashes is a cardboard box.  Place hot ashes in a metal bucket, let them cool, and water them down before disposing of them.
  • The chimney should be checked annually by a professional.  Even if the chimney is not due for cleaning, it is important to check for animal nests or other blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.
  • Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that is potentially flammable, such as furniture, drapes, books, newspapers, etc.  If these items get too close to the fireplace, they could catch fire.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.  Make  sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.  If you leave the room while the fireplace is still hot, take your small child with you.
  • Minimize your child’s chance of burns from the hot glass front of some fireplaces.  Safety screens can be installed to reduce the risk of burns.
  • Put fireplace tools and accessories out of a young child’s reach.  Also, remove any lighters and matches.
  • Install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Communicate to children as early as possible the dangers of fires and the heat generated from them.

One Comment

  1. That’s a good idea to clean any old ashes out of the fireplace before starting a fire. I imagine it’s also a good idea to have something between the fire and the open air of the room, whether it’s some sort of glass or screen. My husband and I have been trying to be more cautious with our fireplace now that we have small children, so we’ll have to pay attention to the other things you pointed out!

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