5 safety tips for wintertime fires

There's nothing quite as mellowing in the winter as listening to a fire popping while sipping on hot chocolate. If you have a fireplace in your home, you're likely excited to use it during the holidays. However, to protect your home and your family, you should educate yourself on proper fireplace safety. Here are five tips to keep your wintertime blaze safe and enjoyable.

1. Keep it clean
Before you light the first fire of the season, call a service professional to clean the chimney and inspect for any issues. Once your chimney is given a clean bill of health, go ahead and start roasting chestnuts. You should clean the firebox at least once a week during the winter months. Home and Garden TV recommended waiting at least three days after a fire to clean out the ashes, as coals can remain hot for more than 48 hours.

2. Prep the room
The fireplace isn't the only thing that needs preparation before you light a fire. Take the time to double check the room to see if there are any fire hazards. A rug or curtain that's too close to the fireplace can be damaged by flying sparks. You should also test the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month to keep your family safe.

3. Install a chimney cap
If the top of your chimney is open, rain, snow, stray objects or even animals can fall down into the home. House Logic suggested purchasing a stainless steel cap to protect against these problems. It can also reduce down drafts when a fire isn't burning. It's a small investment – between $50 and $200 – that will help to keep your home in top shape all winter long.

4. Pick the right wood
All wood is not created equal. When you're purchasing fuel for your fireplace, it's important to look for dry, cured wood. Ideally you want material that has been split and dried for at least eight months. These types of logs will make for a warm, contained fire that's not too smoky.

Further, you should never burn scrap material from around your house or yard. Crates, lumber and painted or treated wood all release chemicals when they're burned. This can compromise the air quality inside your home and cause health problems for your family.

5. Educate your children
It's important to take time to talk to your children about staying safe when there's a fire burning. Explain that they shouldn't run or play near the fireplace and aren't allowed to touch the fire tools. HGTV recommended that you never leave a fire unattended when your children are around because accidents can happen even when your family is careful.

These steps will ensure that you and your family can cruise through the holiday season without any worries.