Fireplace Safety

Results of a chimney fire

Results of a chimney fire

Each year the first winter use of fireplaces and forced air heaters result in a response by the Fire Department. We hope the following tips will help you enjoy your fireplace, but also make you aware of the hazards. Arrange for an annual checkup and cleaning for your chimney and forced air heating unit.

  • This fireplace fire (photo-right) was the result of a metal pipe rusting through in the attic area. Creosote can build over time, and can truly be a fire hazard.
  • With modern air-tight home construction, a fire place has difficulty "breathing." As a fire burns, it requires a flow of air to sustain the fire, but also to allow the thermal column to take the products of combustion up the chimney. Therefore, you must provide an outside source of air to your fireplace. A more expensive method is to provide air directly into your fireplace by installing a pipe to the outside. A more common way to provide air to the fireplace is to slightly open a window near the fireplace. If the fireplace is not given a free flow of air, the fire will not burn well and your house will smell of smoke.
  • Use a safety screen or glass door for protection from embers.
  • Do not leave a fire or smoldering embers unattended.
  • Dispose of embers safely. Never dispose of embers in a trash can or paper bag. We have responded to several fires where embers were placed in a trash can or paper bag and later ignited. Recently, a shovel full of embers were thrown over a fence resulting in a small vegetation fire. The embers may be a day old and look as if they are out, but can still cause a fire.
  • Do not close your damper until you are sure the fire is out.
  • Never burn your discarded Christmas tree in the fireplace. It burns quickly, and the sudden flare-ups may spread outside your fireplace.
  • Avoid burning Christmas wrappings or plastic items. These items may give off toxic chemicals in the smoke.
  • Be careful in handling partially burned wood. The wood may still be smoldering and cause a serious burn.

If you have any questions regarding the use of your fireplace, please call the Murrieta Fire Department at (951) 304-FIRE(3473).