Do the homes in your homeowners association have fireplaces? One of winter’s great pleasures is relaxing in front of a warm, cozy fire. For most months of the year the fireplace stands idle, and these long periods of disuse can lead to hazardous conditions when members light their first fire of the season.
Fireplaces need regular care and cleaning to assure a safe and roaring fire. Creosote- a flammable, tar-like substance that accumulates in the firebox, chimney and flue, should be removed by a professional once a year, eliminating the worry of a potential fire hazard. The chimney should also be inspected annually to ensure there are no structural problems.
The fireplace and its accessories should be cleaned regularly to prevent the accumulation of soot, ashes and creosote tars. The following guidelines will help your homeowners association members keep their fireplaces in good working order throughout the wood-burning season:
- Vacuum or sweep the hearth weekly to prevent dust and soot buildup. Do not sweep or vacuum until all embers have been extinguished for at least 12 hours.
- Burn only well-dried, seasoned wood to minimize dangerous creosote buildup and reduce the risk of toxic fumes and excessive smoke.
- Do not use water to drown a fire except in case of an emergency. Water will make a paste of the ashes, which is difficult to remove.
- Do not use an abrasive cleanser inside the fireplace; many such cleaners leave a flammable residue. Instead use a stiff-bristled brush to gently scrub the walls of the firebox.
- When cleaning the fireplace, sprinkle damp coffee grounds over the cooled ashes to keep down the dust.
These are some tips to keep your homeowners association and members safe leading into the colder fall and winter seasons.
For more tips on fireplace care and maintenance, as well as kerosene heaters, wood-burning stoves and furnaces, visit the U.S. Fire Administration online.
Include these tips in your Association’s monthly newsletter or post them in a visual place in the common areas so members will be encouraged to be proactive this fire stove burning season.