Many holiday traditions center around the fireplace: hanging stockings above the fireplace, decorating the mantle with garland, opening presents in front of a crackling fire, and more. Because fireplaces are used more than ever during the winter, accidents involving the fireplace also increase during this time of year. The following tips can help keep you and your family safe – while still enjoying your fireplace – this holiday season.

1. Have your chimney swept before the holidays arriveKeep the home safe with these holiday decorating tips.

One of the most effective ways to prevent accidental chimney fires is by having your fireplace and chimney swept and inspected at least once per year. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends that “chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.”

2. Keep holiday decor out of the way

While the stockings can still be hung by the chimney with care, it is important to move them out of the way when the fireplace is in use! Keep decor that hangs down over the edge of the mantle, such as stockings or garland, at least three feet away from the fireplace when it is in use. Keep trees, rugs, and other decor at least three feet away from the fireplace as well.

If your home features a real tree, make sure to keep it well watered and away from the fireplace. Real trees can ignite quickly from stray sparks or embers; if getting a real tree, wait until closer to Christmas to buy and take it down as soon as possible to reduce the risk of fire.

3. Only burn wood – not wrappings

When opening presents in front of the fireplace, it can be tempting to throw wrapper paper, tissue, and boxes straight into the fire. Save these trimmings for the recycling bin as these highly combustible materials can cause a fire to quickly get out of control, sending flames up the chimney or out into your home. Likewise, many wrapping papers contain dye that can be toxic when burned and released into the air.

Avoid burning real trees, garlands, or wreaths – even in outdoor firepits. Because the wood is unseasoned, it can cause excessive buildup in the chimney. Likewise, many greenery products are treated with flame retardant chemicals that can make them unsafe to burn.

4. Use common sense

Often the best – and easiest – way to keep your family safe during the holiday season is by using common sense. Keep pets and small children away from open flames or hot fireplace components by using screens, fireplace doors, or gates. Test fire alarms, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors before the holiday; ensure they are working correctly, that they are placed near the fireplace or other heating appliances, and that the batteries have been recently replaced. Finally, continue to use only seasoned firewood to keep your fireplace burning safely and efficiently.

From all of us at Coopertown Services, we wish you and your family a very merry holiday season and a happy new year!