There's something very cozy about a fire crackling in a fireplace. But keeping safe while warm and cozy can require some preparation.
Before the heating season, have the furnace checked by a professional to ensure that everything is working properly and to prevent potential problems with carbon monoxide.
If you use a wood stove or fireplace, the chimney should be cleaned and checked yearly. The chimney should be free from obstructions to allow smoke to be drawn out. Make sure the damper is open and the chimney is drawing properly before lighting your fire. To check the draw, first open a window a bit to allow for ventilation. Either carefully hold a lighted match to the flue and make sure the flame is drawn upward or light a small ball of paper in the grate, again making sure that the smoke is drawn up through the chimney. If the chimney does not draw smoke up and out, have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional.
Always keep a screen in front of the fireplace to prevent flying sparks from escaping. Never store flammable materials near any heating sources, especially fireplaces or woodstoves.
Avoid huge, blazing fires; never leave a fire unattended.
Burn paper only when starting a fire and only in small amounts. Never use chemicals or fuels to start a fire. Be aware that holiday gift wrap may contain chemicals that release toxic fumes when burned.
Use only dry, seasoned wood or logs. Avoid evergreen branches, which can flare up quickly and throw sparks, or treated wood, which can contain harmful chemicals.
Keep small children away from any heating source, especially open fires. Older children and teens should be thoroughly instructed on the proper use of all heating equipment.
Extra precautions should be taken when using portable space heaters. Fuel-based heaters should be filled outdoors, never while in use. Electric space heaters should be UL-tested and approved. If extension cords are necessary, they should be as short as possible and sturdy enough to handle the higher wattage of the heater. Cords should be protected and out of the way, and space heaters should be placed out of high traffic areas so they will not be tipped over. Keep all space heaters away from drapes or other materials that could ignite. Read and follow all instructions in the owner's manual when using any type of space heater.