Sitting in front of a warm fireplace in wintertime is one of life’s little pleasures; but when children and pets are around, a fireplace becomes more of a safety concern. Additional measures should be taken to protect those who don’t understand the potential dangers posed by a fireplace. Children and pets have been injured because the matter of child-proofing and pet-proofing the fireplace was not addressed.
The first rule of thumb when it comes to fire and children or pets is that they should never be left alone with extreme heat, open flames, or hot embers. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association advises families to discuss fireplace safety with children as early as possible, making sure that children know not to touch the doors or panels of a fireplace.
Many people mistakenly believe that the glass doors on fireplace inserts provide a high level of safety and protection from the heat. But hospitals have reported that the number of burns on the hand caused by touching the glass doors on gas fireplaces has increased by 50% since 2006. Children are a large part of that statistic. The second leading cause of burns among children is contact between some part of the body and a hot object. If a child is too young to understand when taught about the danger of touching the fireplace glass, other steps to ensure safety should be taken.
At any time but especially when pets and children are around, a lit fireplace should have mesh, a grate cover, or glass doors. All of these prevent hot embers and sparks from escaping the firebox and potentially burning someone or starting a fire in the home. It may be necessary to add a gate around the fireplace hearth; sometimes more of a physical barrier is needed to keep children or pets at a safe distance from metal covers and glass doors which can heat up enough to cause burns.
The fireplace hearth gate can also help to protect little ones from the hard, sharp edges of a hearth.
The flame-resistant materials used as fireplace hearths are usually hard; they’re also often raised, creating potential harm to an infant or toddler who falls down. Fire resistant foam hearth guards are available which provide a cushion to prevent injury in case of a fall. During the months when the fireplace isn’t used, cushions or blankets could be placed on the hearth, to serve the same purpose.
More Fireplace Safety Tips
With some extra care, you can relax and enjoy your fireplace anytime, secure in knowing that everyone in the household is safe. The following are more safety tips:
- Be careful that nothing is placed near the fireplace unless the ashes are cold. Flammable items such as cushions, curtains, stuffed animals, toys, and paper should be at least two feet away from a blazing fire.
- Matches used to light the fireplace or gas jet should never be within the reach of children.
- Fireplace remote controls should be out of reach of little ones.
- Go the extra mile and have a switch lock installed on your gas fireplace starter so that children can’t turn it on even with a fireplace remote control or key.
- Fireplace tools can be a danger. Either secure them or make them inaccessible so that there’s no chance they’ll be pulled down or used as toys.
- Never put a Christmas tree near a fireplace, since the tree could be easily ignited by a spark from the fire.
- Keep holiday gifts away from the fire, since the wrapping paper can ignite.
- Never leave the house or retire for the night without ensuring that the fire in your fireplace is completely out.
- Be vigilant about making sure all smoke alarms are in working condition.
- Purchase a carbon monoxide detector. This could save your family’s life if your fireplace fails to vent properly.
- Get your chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep at least annually in order to both eliminate debris that could cause chimney fires and be sure that there isn’t a breach in your flue.
- Buy a fireplace door guard which prevents children from being able to open fireplace doors, which can burn and pinch.
- If you have birds, keep them well away from the fireplace; they have sensitive lungs and circulatory systems. Even slight changes in temperature affect our feathered friends.
There are many precautions to take in regards to ensuring the safety of your family and they are all equally important. Serious injuries may be caused if preventative measures are not taken. If you have any additional questions that were not answered here, feel free to comment or contact us at anytime.
Photo Credit: Cyrusbulsara, Erkst Vikne
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110