How to safely use a fireplace and avoid a fire and water damage disaster
Blog Summary: SERVPRO® of Media provides tips for safe burning practices when using a fireplace.
SERVPRO of Media, PA, recommends homeowners exercise safe fireplace burning practices to prevent a fire damage disaster that requires fire and water damage restoration services. Safe burning starts with what goes into the fireplace. Some items should never be burned in a fireplace, and the list of what not to burn in the fireplace may be surprising.
Any treated wood
While arsenic is no longer used in pressure-treated wood as of January 1, 2004, old pressure-treated wood is harmful due to residual amounts of arsenic. Decking, support beams, and plywood treated with arsenic should be discarded appropriately. Never burn the wood in the fireplace, wood stove, firepit, or on an open fire. Woods that have been painted, varnished, or stained will also give off toxic fumes and smoke if burned. The adhesives used in the manufacture of plywood will produce toxic fumes as well.
Cardboard, corrugated boxes, and printed paper
Both solid fiberboard (e.g., cereal boxes) and corrugated boxes (e.g., pizza boxes) should not be burned in a fireplace. Chemicals used in the manufacturing and printing of these items can emit toxic chemicals and fumes. Gift wraps, magazines, coupon inserts, and colorful mailers should not be burned in the fireplace. A page or two of plain newsprint with black print can start a fire. Burning paper can float out of an unprotected chimney, putting the roof and yard at risk of catching fire.
Examples of accelerants that should not be used to start a fire in the fireplace include such items as lighter fluid, charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, motor oil, engine starter fluid, rubbing alcohol, liquors, fingernail polish remover, paint thinner, hair spray, wasp spray, spray lubricants, or any other flammable liquids or sprays. Most of the above items are highly combustible and can flare up when ignited. Methanol and petroleum-based products give off toxic fumes when combusting, and accelerants generate a very high heat that can damage the chimney or cause it to ignite, which could burn a home to the ground.
Moisture in wet or green firewood increases smoke production and rapid creosote buildup, elevating the risk of a chimney fire. Use seasoned firewood and avoid burning evergreens such as pine for the same reasons. Make sure logs are free of poison oak or poison ivy.
Other items that should not be burned in the fireplace:
- Wood pallets may be treated with pesticide to prevent the spread of the ash tree borer.
- Driftwood contains harmful metal salts absorbed from the ocean.
- Plastics give off toxins which cause numerous health effects.
- Fabrics produce lots of toxic smoke, which increases creosote buildup.
- Small batteries can give off toxic fumes and can explode under extreme heat.
- Fresh fruit peels smolder, which increases creosote buildup. First, dry the peels of apples, lemons, or oranges, then burn them in the fireplace for an aromatic evening by the fireplace.
- Leaves burn very hot and can cause a chimney fire. Wet leaves give off lots of smoke that increase creosote buildup in the chimney.
Basic fireplace safety tips
This winter season will see many families relying more heavily on their fireplaces and wood stoves as temperatures drop and energy costs skyrocket. These basic fireplace safety tips will help keep the home both warm and safe.
- Inspect the fireplace and chimney at least once a year, preferably in the fall, before cold weather arrives.
- Always use a fireplace screen to prevent embers from escaping the fireplace.
- Keep combustibles at least three or more feet away from the fireplace.
- Avoid putting combustible decorative items on the hearth.
- Always have a fire extinguisher nearby when burning the fireplace.
- Never leave a burning fire unattended.
- Install smoke alarms outside every bedroom and change the batteries at least once a year. The kitchen, den, laundry room, and garage should have smoke detectors.
- Keep children and pets a safe distance from the fireplace.
- Create an emergency fire escape plan and conduct drills with the family.
- Pre-qualify a property damage cleanup and restoration company before a fire, smoke, or water damage disaster occurs.
What to look for when choosing a damage restoration company in Media, PA
A locally owned and operated company is invested in the community. Word of mouth, BBB ratings, and social media reviews should validate a solid track record of excellent customer service. Trained and IICRC-certified technicians should have industry-leading equipment, cutting-edge technology, and the latest cleaning techniques and EPA-approved cleaning products. Services should be available 24/7, 365 days a year, including holidays. Can the company promise a quick response time of about an hour or so? A reputable company will inspect and assess the damage before providing a detailed, well-documented estimate that includes images and video. Choose a damage cleanup and restoration company that can handle the insurance claims process from beginning to end.
For more information about fire and water damage restoration and cleanup services for the areas near Regal Edgmont Square, Newtown Square, PA, email SERVPRO of Media at office@SERVPROmedia.com or call (610) 566-5720.