Skip to main content

Use common sense with fireplaces and wood burning stoves to avoid hazardous situations.

Wood burning fireplaces and stoves are common in Bay Area homes because they can add warmth and a comfortable atmosphere, but they’re also potential sources of house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. To ensure your fireplace is operating as safely as possible, consider the following tips:
Have your chimney checked annually. Every chimney in your home should be inspected once a year, especially if you use your fireplace frequently. Hire a certified chimney cleaning company to perform the check—it’ll greatly reduce the risk of problems by removing creosote buildup and chimney obstructions.
Burn the right types of wood. Avoid burning pine or other types of wood that have high sap content, as well as wood that isn’t completely dry. Most types of wood should be seasoned (split and dried in a covered location that doesn’t directly sit on soil) to ensure they’re completely dry, as damp wood can spark and create thick smoke and ash that can collect in chimneys.
Build fires correctly. Set up firewood or specialty fire logs on a supporting grate toward the back of your fireplace or wood stove. This will stop sparks from escaping the fireplace and ensure the smoke travels straight up the flue into the chimney. Start fires by igniting kindling or using a commercial firelighter. Don’t use flammable liquids (gasoline, lighter fluid) to start indoor fires.
Clear the hearth area. Flammable materials and decorations that are placed too close to a fireplace can easily ignite, and small fires can spread to flooring, walls and ceilings and cause major damage. Likewise, furniture that’s too close to a fireplace can overheat and catch fire. For this reason, keep furniture at least three feet away from fireplaces and wood burning stoves.
Use a fireplace screen. Install a metal mesh or fire screen in front of the fireplace. These implements will catch flying sparks that could start a house fire. Keep small children and pets away from the fireplace or wood stove. You may need to install baby gates or barriers around fireplaces to keep children and animals from getting too close.
Never leave fires unattended. Make sure you extinguish any type of fire before you go to sleep or leave your house. Even small embers can pose a threat if left unattended.
Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Place these detectors in common living areas and near bedrooms. Check the batteries twice a year and test the alarms monthly to ensure they’re working correctly.