As the nights draw in those of us with log burners or open fireplaces are lighting up and getting cosy. There’s something undeniably autumnal about the smell of wood smoke and it does lend a certain ambience to the living room, having a fire crackling away and throwing out heat. We might also be lighting fires outdoors for Bonfire Night, to get rid of garden waste or simply for atmosphere – with Covid restrictions at the front of everyone’s minds socialising outdoors is the safest way to maintain social contact in person, so lighting a fire outdoors allows socialising to take place even when it’s cold.
If you haven’t already done so, book a chimney sweep to clear out your chimney or log burner flue. Soot and other debris, such as bird nests can build up and catch fire and these types of fires can be devastating to a property. Also, ensure that you order your wood or other fuel well in advance. Remember to store it somewhere dry with good air circulation and get ahead of the game. Start preparing for the fire season now.
Before you light your fire for the first time, remember to check that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order. A CO detector should be located about halfway up the wall and between one and three metres from the fuel source. This placement ensures that the sensor detects the presence of CO at the right time and not once it has already built up enough to cause health problems. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the escape routes at this stage as well, so you’re fully prepared if the worst should happen. Its worth remembering that the better prepared you are, the less likely it is that you’ll find yourself in a dangerous situation; you cannot be too careful when dealing with fire.
Keep your kindling, paper and matches or lighter well away from the fire. There is always the possibility that these could ignite very quickly and therefore, shouldn’t be left unattended anywhere near a fire. Ideally, you would keep these items in a metal box such as a toolbox, but this isn’t always feasible. If you use firelighters these also need to be safely stored far away from the fire. If there are children around, you should consider using a fireguard in front of the log burner, as extra protection between the hot metal and curious fingers.
You should always use a fireguard with an open fire, even when you are in the room, as it doesn’t take much for an ember or piece of coal to roll out of the fire and set the carpet alight. Very experienced fire users may have the skills to consistently build a safe fire – that is, a fire that will collapse inwards and not allow anything to roll out or fall over the grate – but nevertheless, even if you’re in this category you should always use a fire guard. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
When lighting the fire or log burner you should stay with it until the flames are established. This is partly for safety, because you’ll see if combustion isn’t happening properly and therefore creating CO, but also because at the early stages of a fire it can go out in the blink of an eye, so it’s best to stay with it until it is going well. Get to know your log burner or open fireplace as this will enable you to better control the fire; either with strategic placement of logs or by using the air inlets on your log burner to achieve the most efficient combustion. Every log burner and fireplace is slightly different, so try and get to familiarise yourself with your over the winter.
Please stay safe when using your open fire or log burner this year, and get the maximum enjoyment out of it with minimal risk.