A fireplace can be warm and wonderful. But the evening news is sprinkled with stories of tragic fires that rob families of possessions, homes and even loved ones.
"Used correctly, your fireplace is a source of warmth and cozy atmosphere," says Dale Dorman, a housing specialist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. "But be sure to follow the rules to avoid fire risks."
Be sure the flue is open. Use a screen to enclose the front of your fireplace to confine live embers and sparks to the fire box.
Use care with "fire salts" that produce colored flames when thrown on a wood fire. They contain heavy metals, and can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation or vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children and pets.
Prepare for emergencies. Dorman recommends certain safety rules:
* Keep the fire department, police, ambulance, doctor and other emergency numbers posted on or near your telephone.
* Keep a UL-listed multipurpose fire extinguisher in your home. Know where it is and how to use it.
* Many fire departments now offer first aid classes for people in their communities. At least one member of the family should be familiar with first aid procedures.
* Keep matches, lighters and candles out of the reach of children.
* Make an emergency plan to use if a fire breaks out anywhere in your home. See that each family member knows at least two escape routes.
* Don't wear loose, flowing clothes, especially long, open sleeves, near the open flames of a fireplace, stove or candle-lit table.
* Burning evergreens in the fireplace can be dangerous. When dry, evergreens burn like tinder. Their flames can flare out of control, sending sparks flying around the room.
* Plan for safety. Remember, there is no substitute for common sense. Look for and eliminate potential danger spots near candles, fireplaces and electrical connections.