Security and Safety

Holiday Hearth Safety Tips

By Kristy Alpert 12.9.16

It’s like one of those perfect Norman Rockwell images. Nothing provides warmth from the chills of winter quite like a real log burning in the fireplace. The crackle and glow creates a comfy setting for a night spent cradling cups of cocoa and cuddling beneath cozy blankets.

However, the friendliness of fire also has its dangers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, alternative heating sources (like fireplaces and wood stoves) are one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months, behind only cooking equipment. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association reports that 43 percent of all heating-related fires stem from fireplaces and chimneys, and the Chimney Safety Institute of America reports an average of $96.9 million in damages each year resulting from house fires involving a fireplace, chimney, or chimney connector.

Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute, recommends that homeowners protect themselves with an adequate insurance policy. It’s always a good idea to speak with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to make sure your homeowners policy is sufficient to rebuild your home and replace personal possessions, if necessary.

Worters says that damage caused by fire and smoke is usually covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Many times, homeowners also are covered for water or other damage caused by firefighters working to put out the flames.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety recommends taking these precautions before, during, and after lighting the first log:

  • Use a fireplace grate.
  • Keep glass doors open while a fire is burning, but close the mesh screen when it’s in use.
  • Have the fireplace, chimney, chimney connectors, and all other heating equipment inspected and cleaned professionally once per year to get rid of dangerous creosote chemicals that build up.
  • Install a removable cap at the top of the chimney to protect against debris and animals.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Avoid burning garbage, paper, charcoal, or plastic in the fireplace, and never use lighter fluid or gasoline to light an indoor fire.
  • Keep flammable items (books, newspapers, furniture, indoor plants, etc.) away from the area.
  • Install a spark arrestor with 1/4-inch mesh.
  • Clean out ashes from previous fires and store them in a noncombustible container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the container outside and away from the house.
  • Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure it is extinguished and cold before going to sleep.
  • Extinguish the fire completely before closing the damper.

While using a wood-burning fireplace is both a charming and economical way to heat your home during winter, it requires regular maintenance to make sure it keeps burning safely and efficiently, just like any other appliance or traditional heating system. Call your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to make sure your homeowners policy doesn’t leave you overheated in case of a fireplace accident.

Don’t end up like Clark Griswold — check out our Griswold Game Plan for more safety tips to protect your home from holiday hazards.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2016 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance