Posted December 15, 2017 | 5:04 PM

Don't Let Your Cozy Fire Get Out of Control

Here are 10 tips to ensure a fireplace or fire pit provides secure comfort and atmosphere

Even in Florida, the warm glow of a hearth or outdoor fire pit adds a cozy ambiance to wintertime gatherings.

Just be sure to take safety precautions.

Here are 10 tips from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue and the National Fire Protection Association to help ensure your snug setting doesn't go up in smoke:

  • Have a fireplace chimney cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional
  • Make sure a fireplace flue or damper is open before starting a fire. The opening draws smoke up the chimney and out of a building.
  • A fireplace must have a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, which then is placed a safe distance from any residence.
  • Inside the home, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom, and in hallways leading to bedrooms.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from a fireplace or other indoor heating equipment such as a furnace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around fireplaces and fire pits.
  • Position a fire pit at least 10 feet away from any structure, combustible material, or neighboring yard.
  • Do not put a fire pit directly on a wooden deck or grass, or beneath eaves or low-hanging tree branches. Place the fire pit on a non-flammable surface, such as concrete or patio blocks.
  • Burn only dry and aged wood. Generally, hardwoods such as oak and maple are preferred. Properly cured, they release more heat and burn cleanly.
  • Never leave an active fireplace or fire pit unattended.

Other tips to stay safe and warm:

  • Don't use an oven to heat your home.
  • Install wood burning stoves following manufacturer's instructions, or have a professional do it. All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you smell gas in a gas heater, do not light the appliance. Leave the home immediately and call the fire department or gas company.