Getting cozy in front of a roaring fire in your fireplace can be one of the most rewarding parts of winter. It’s a chance to relax, enjoy the season, and escape from the winter chill. The warm glow makes it easy to forget that despite all of its benefits, a fireplace can be an extremely dangerous part of your home.

A fireplace can be an easy way to heat your home, roast some mallows, or even just add a little more holiday spirit to your evening. It is also easy to keep it well-maintained and safe so you can relax and warm up without worry.

Keep Combustible Materials Far Away
Make sure your hearth is clear of all items except for fireplace tools. Lighting the fireplace is inviting a large open flame into your home. The less items you have near it that can ignite, the safer you, your home and your family will be.

Keep it Covered
To help have a little control over how much the fire can spread, make sure you have a screen in front of your fireplace. Most come with a metal screen you can pull to cover the flames, which should be kept close if a fire is lit. If you do not have a metal screen, you can purchase one to keep in front of the flames. If you have glass doors in front of your fireplace, make sure they are open when the fireplace is in use.

Use The Right Tools
Never reach into a fire with your bare hands, no matter how tough you think you are. Tools such as pokers and grabbers are a simple way to keep a fire burning bright without putting your hands in danger.

Keep it Clean
Clean ash out of your fireplace once it reaches the bottom of the grate to avoid danger. If you have recently had a fire, do not use a vacuum, as some coals can remain hot for up to three days. Always use a dust mask and gloves to clean out your fireplace.

Clear the Flue
Before lighting a fire, check your chimney flue for any debris. Hire a professional chimney sweep to come and inspect it and make sure everything is cleaned out. Check to make sure your damper is open before lighting a fire, and make sure to close it once the fire is completely extinguished. To keep debris out of your fireplace, consider installing a chimney cap.

Use the Right Wood
Burn only firewood in a wood-burning fireplace. When selecting wood, look for seasoned wood that has been cut and dried for at least six months. Dry wood burns more thoroughly, while wet wood can cause a lot of soot. To check, knock two pieces together; if they make a sharp sound, they are dry. Always use hardwoods such as oak, ash and maple for a better fire.

Have it Inspected
Twice a year have a certified chimney sweep come and inspect your chimney. Have them look for any cracks, obstructions or other damage that can be dangerous. Once they have cleaned your flue from any soot or debris, ask them what you can do to check your chimney yourself to keep it safer year-round.

Before lighting a fire, make sure you have properly working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed in the room where the fireplace is located. Detectors, like the interconnected system made by Crossfire Alarms, can inform you in time of a potential threat in your home caused by the fireplace. If your current detectors do not work properly, consider upgrading to a more advanced and accurate system like Crossfire that is proven to alert you sooner and keep you safer.