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Fire hazards

Cold winter nights are the perfect time to relax by a toasty fire. But before you light that first fire of the season, have your fireplace and chimney inspected, and make sure the area surrounding the fireplace is safe. Wood-burning and gas-burning fireplaces need yearly maintenance to make sure a friendly fire doesn't turn into a hostile blaze.

Here are some fire safety tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • Do not use flammable liquids in a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
  • Keep children, furniture and flammable items at least three feet away from the fire.
  • Do not burn plastic items, which may give off toxic chemicals in the smoke.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and learn how to use it.
  • Create an evacuation plan so your family knows how to get out safely in case of a fire. Each family member should know two ways to escape in the event of a fire.

Follow these steps to keep your home safe, too:

  • Use a safety screen or glass door in front of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves for protection from flying embers.
  • Store ashes in a covered metal container away from the house before disposing in the garbage.
  • Be sure the fire is completely out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
  • Install an outside air vent or open a window to bring in enough fresh air.