The following are measures you should take to ensure safety while enjoying your fireplace:
Roof: Keep your roof free of flammable items, such as leaves, twigs, and branches and remove any branches hanging above the chimney or flue. Use a chimney cap with a mesh screen as a spark arrestor, and make sure that your vent pipes extend 3 feet above the roof.
Keep It Clean: Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney sweep. You should have at least a 2-ft radius around your fireplace or woodstove that is clear of all flammable items, like paper, cardboard, or fabric before lighting a fire.
Fireproof: Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and replace batteries annually. Smoke detectors should be on every level of your home, both inside and outside of all sleeping areas. Have a plan of escape and practice it, and always have a fire extinguisher accessible. If using a woodstove, you should have fire resistant materials on all surrounding walls.
Lighting the Fire
Firestarters: Use only small amounts of paper to light a fire, keeping in mind that papers like gift wrap can be coated with chemicals that release toxic fumes. Do not use liquid flammables, such as gasoline or oil, to start a fire. This can cause explosions and chimney fire.
What to Burn: Use only seasoned, hard wood. Soft wood with moisture creates faster creosote buildup, which can cause chimney fires. Never burn trash or debris in your fireplace or woodstove.
Containment: Place logs toward the back of the fireplace onto a sturdy grate. Keep glass doors open, if you have them, to prevent creosote buildup. Many glass doors have a layer of mesh that can be pulled together. Use this or place a screen in front that is large enough to stop rolling logs from escaping the fireplace.
Other Important Tips
Dispose of completely cooled ashes in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid and place it away from the home. Don’t ever use a regular trash can to dispose of ashes.
And of course, never leave a fire unattended.