Fireplaces and wood burning stoves are auxiliary home heating devices that demand care and attention in their purchase, installation, and maintenance. Following these precautions can reduce the possibility of a fire or injury related to their use.
All wood burning stoves and fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected before the heating season begins. Make sure that the door latch closes properly. Furnaces and water heaters which have flue pipes attached to the chimney of a fireplace or wood burning stove should have tight fitting joints and seams.
Fireplaces should be equipped with a tight fitting spark screen or enclosed with glass doors to stop sparks from landing on carpet or other nearby combustibles. Special retaining screens can also keep children and pets at a safe distance from the fire and so reduce the possibility of accidental burns.

Never use liquid fuel to start the fire in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
Ashes need to be thoroughly dampened, cooled, and stored in metal cans that are used solely for ash storage, not in compost piles, cartons, boxes or anything else that is combustible.
It is important to use only thoroughly dried hardwood. This will prevent or slow the buildup of creosote which is the cause of many chimney fires.
Signs of a Fire
Although these following these precautions should reduce your risk of a chimney fire, be aware of the signs of one and know what to do if you encounter them -- a loud roar, sucking sounds, shaking pipes, hot spots on wall or chimney, or smoke in the house or apartment.
If you hear or see any of these sounds shut off the fire's air supply, get everyone out of the house quickly, and call 911 from a neighbor's phone.
These types of appliances and their accessories are a subject of expanding use and concern due to rising energy costs. With the increased use of wood and coal stoves more information is needed by the home owner. For someone considering the installation of a wood or coal stove, a fireplace, or a solid-fuel furnace, careful consideration must be given to the safety aspects of the equipment and the installation. Expert advise is often required.
Instructions must be followed to the letter. Anyone intending to change or modify his heating system should discuss the matter with his insurance agent, broker, or company. The proposed action may be considered an additional risk for which an appropriate premium may be required. For additional information on the safe installation and use of solid fuel burning appliances and accessories, contact your fire department.

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  There is something special about the feeling of warmth and cheer that surrounds gathering around the hearth on a cold winter night; take the time to make it a safe experience for you and your family.
When purchasing new heating equipment, NFPA advises selecting equipment that bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Install and maintain heating equipment correctly, and be sure it complies with local fire and building codes. Where possible, have local building or fire officials check the installation and maintenance.
I"n many cases, you can actually prevent a fire just by reading and following the manufacturer's instructions when using a heating device."
Have your chimney inspected by a professional prior to the start of every heating season and cleaned if necessary. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire if not removed through cleaning. Always protect your home and your family by using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires. Remember to burn only wood - never burn paper or pine boughs, which can float out the chimney and ignite your roof or a neighboring home. Do not use flammable liquids in a fireplace. If you are purchasing a factory-built fireplace, select one listed by a testing laboratory, and have it installed according to local codes.
If you decorate your fireplace with Christmas stockings or other seasonal decorations,
don't burn fires in it.
Wood Stoves
Be sure your wood stove bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory and meets local fire codes. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper installation, use and maintenance. Chimney connections and chimney flues should be inspected at the beginning of each heating season and cleaned when necessary. Follow the same safety rules for wood stoves as you would for space heaters. Burn only wood, and be sure the wood stove is placed on an approved stove board to protect the floor from heat and hot coals. Check with your local fire department and local code officials before having your wood stove installed.