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How to Safely Build a Fire in a Fireplace

Updated on June 5, 2014

Disclaimer: I am not a fire or burn professional. Please seek the advice of your local fire station, or be sure a person who is experienced in building a fire is present before you attempt to build one for the first time.

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The Wood Burning Fireplace or Stove

Most if not all fireplaces are beautiful. However, the original, old fashioned, wood burning fireplace tops all modern technology when you want to feel as though you are a part of nature. It is an asset to a romantic evening. It emits an odor that is comforting and fulfilling, representing warmth and food.

With all of the modern technology it is not necessary to work this hard to create a fire in your fireplace. There are gas and electric fireplaces that are much more convenient. If you are a traditionalist, however, you won’t enjoy the nature less fire.

Tinder and Kindling

Tinder is the highly flammable, fast burning first step of starting a fire. Tree bark, pine cones, tiny sticks, and pine needles make great tinder. These items are lit in several places to help the fire burn evenly. Before you light the tinder, place some of the kindling on top of it. Make sure you have plenty of tinder as it burns very quickly and you will go through a lot of it before you get a strong, healthy fire going.

Kindling consists of larger branches and sticks. Kindling burns slower and creates hot coals to help keep the flames alive. Use the smaller pieces first, and gradually add the thicker ones. Kindling actually builds the base of your fire. After a few minutes you should be able to place the split logs and timber on the fire.

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Sometimes it Isn’t Quite This Easy

Ventilation

Once you have a small fire going and you’re burning thicker branches, gently and swiftly place 1 – 2 pieces of firewood on the fire. In order to keep the fire alive and burning, the placement of the wood needs to be done based on strategy. The flow of oxygen is what fuels the fire.

Make sure there are openings in the pile of wood in between the logs and spaces between the fire wood and the fireplace walls. Keep old ashes (not hot coals) swept to the sides of the fireplace floor. You may be required to lightly blow underneath the logs fueling the fire to keep it going.

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Safety Rules

  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep annually and also be sure the flute is open for proper ventilation.
  • Always be aware of the location of your fire extinguisher and make sure it has not expired.
  • Never use flammable material in your wood burning fireplace. Items you should NOT use include lighter fluid, gasoline, and other highly combustible substances.
  • Always use a fireplace screen to keep popping embers from landing on the carpet.
  • Do not burn leaves, paper, boxes, or other light weight items in your fireplace. These items can carry embers up the chimney which could start a fire in a nearby area.
  • Do not clean out the ashes and debris for at least 48 hours as some embers may still be hot and dangerous.

What Kind of Wood Should be Used

Seasoned firewood is the best wood to use. Wood that is seasoned has been cut six months to a year before and is dried out with little to no moisture. Oak, Cedar, and Hickory are the most popular hard woods to burn. Pine wood is usually sap filled and not only can leave a sticky mess in your fireplace, but doesn’t burn as well as the hard woods.

Then again, you can always throw on a Dura flame log, light the paper corners, and watch your fire burn for 6 hours instead. May you always be safe and warm,

"Be kind to one another" ~ Ellen

God Bless You ~ Margaret Sullivan

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    • profile image

      Peter Plachy 2 years ago

      Helpful Hub ! Thank you!

      until winter comes again this is my fireplace of choice:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSymuou354c

      Sweeet right?

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I rarely use my fireplace in recent years (mild winters), but I love having one. I always have to remember the damper; I learned the hard way that smoke alarms really do work . . .

      Very helpful hub - voted up and useful!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image
      Author

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Thank you, Mary. I grew up in S Florida, so I'm thoroughly enjoying my fireplace now.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      Living in S. Fl. we seldom need a fire in the fireplace, but on those rare occasions it's so nice. Great informative Hub.

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