You will be thankful you followed this often repeated – but far too often ignored – advice on making sure your Thanksgiving holiday decorations do not pose safety concerns through increased risks of fire hazards.
Fall is a very busy time of year for fireplace and chimney professionals, and as we are out there carrying out inspections and repair visits throughout South California we see so many stunning holiday decorations of all types. Generally, fireplaces are a focal point of our Thanksgiving decor as it creates that cozy gathering area hich is perfect for a festive ambiance.
The fact of the matter is that as we visit homes and see these beautiful decorative displays on and around the fireplace, we must often remind the property owner and/or tenants of some safety precautions they should follow, and explain the potential risks they run by not doing so. Accidents don’t only happen to others, and keeping your home and family safe from fires also protects your neighbors and community.
To refresh everybody’s knowledge and create greater awareness, here are a few simple tips you can follow to decorate your fireplace area with both safety and style in mind.
1 – Keep a 3 Foot Safety Zone
According to The National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America, anything flammable or combustible should be kept out of the 3 foot zone around the fireplace. Many accidental fires are caused by wayward sparks, which is why you want to keep furniture and decorations at least three feet away from the fireplace.
Following this logic, you should never place decorations directly on your fireguard (great job on placing a fireguard, that’s the way to go!) Please note that organic materials like pumpkins, gourds, pine cones and other decorative elements brought in from the outdoors must also be placed at a safe 3 foot distance from the fireplace.
2 – Opt for flame resistant or retardant decorations
We highly recommend avoiding decorations made of flammable materials such paper, burlap, branches or leaves around the fireplace or on the mantle, as they can easily catch fire from exposure to heat or flying sparks. Shop instead for synthetic flame resistant or retardant decorations sold in stores, they can achieve really stunning effects without all the safety concerns.
Furthermore, we highly recommend adding a hearth rug, which not only adds flair but also provides extra protection for your carpeting or wood floor as it avoids them from catching on fire due to sparks and flying embers.
Keep in mind that items labeled flame-resistant are inherently non-flammable and resist catching fire, whereas flame-retardant materials are chemically treated to burn slowly or self-extinguish. Please remember that neither of these are fireproof!
3 – Remove flammable items before using the fireplace
Calling all fans of DIY holiday decorations made out of dry sticks, twine and other materials which catch fire quickly, and proud grandparents displaying handmade greeting cards and paper crafts the kids made – That’s perfectly fine, as long as you remove all of it before sparking a fire!
Before you light the fireplace, remove all flammable materials, dangling decorations or garland near the firebox. Also be sure to keep the wires and cords of your powered decorative items away from the firebox.
4 – Use candles with caution
When it comes to choosing candles, opt for wider or jar-like candleholders which help keep the flame at a safer distance from other decorative items. Avoid tall candle holders and candles which may tend to tilt or wobble easily. Do make sure the candles are at safe lengths to use and that they burn normally. For example, in some cases wicks can be overexposed causing extra tall flames, or the candle can be very uneven because the wax has burned much more on one side – Don’t risk it, take a new one.
Now – especially if you have a cat who loves to jump on counters and shelves – consider using battery-powered flameless candles. Nowadays, so many new models and various designs of battery-powered candles not only come very close to the real thing, they can achieve spectacular effects that might even be possible with the risks and hazards caused by real flames.
5 – Keep a fire extinguisher nearby
This one is easy and might also sound pretty obvious, which is why we are always so surprised to see how very few actually check this box! Keep a fire extinguisher at least 2 feet from the fireplace in case of an emergency. Make sure everyone in the household knows how to operate it, remember to check its expiration date and replace it if necessary.
Last but not least, have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned yearly!
This one is more of a reminder that annual inspections and maintenance by certified professionals are recommended by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Whether you own a gas or wood fueled fireplace, having it inspected once per year is key to ensuring proper prevention of dangerous fireplace malfunctions and chimney fires. If you haven’t scheduled your annual chimney inspection with us yet, contact us today!
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