Now that the weather has turned cool, people will want to celebrate the holiday with a Yule Log in the crackling fireplace to make the home warm and cozy. However, fireplaces are one of the leading causes of fire in the winter months. Fountain Hills Rural Metro Firefighters want residents to be safe while using the fireplace. Here are a few tips to keep families safe this winter.

*Before using the fireplace for the first time each season, hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect and remove creosote or other obstructions, such as animal nests, from the chimney.

*Install and use the fireplace and chimney according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

*Keep all flammable objects, such as newspapers, books, holiday decorations, and furniture, at least two feet away from the fireplace.

*It is a good idea to put a flame-retardant rug in front of the fireplace in case any embers escape the firebox.

*Make sure to have a fire extinguisher readily available.

*Use only clean, seasoned wood and never burn any wood that has been contaminated by flammable liquids.

*Have a mesh metal screen or glass fireplace doors installed to prevent embers from shooting out of the fireplace.

*Supervise children whenever the fireplace is being used. Remind them to stay away from the fire.

*Keep pets at a safe distance from the fire.

*Always supervise the fire and never leave it burning when going to sleep or leaving the home.

*Make sure to have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms (CO) outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.

When starting a fire

*Remove the ashes from the previous fire and let them cool for several hours before disposing of them. Building a fire on top of the ashes will result in more smoke, as it reduces the air supply to wood.

*Put the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid. Store it outside, at least 10 feet away from the home and other buildings. Do not dump ashes in wooded areas or on lawns.

*Open the damper; you may have to look up into the chimney with a mirror or flashlight to check that it’s open.

*Place crumpled paper on the grate and cover it with kindling or another fire-starter (but do not use flammable liquids to start a fire). Add the firewood once the kindling is burning brightly. Then, close the fire screen.

*Don’t overload the fireplace; a large fire generates more smoke and can damage your chimney.

*Never burn gift wrap, cardboard, plastic, garbage, or other materials that may be toxic.

*Residential zero clearance fireplaces are designed for small fires. Do not overload the firebox with logs. A single log is ideal.

*Use the fireplace as it is intended. Do not burn logs in a gas fireplace.

*If the fire gets out of hand for any reason, leave the house and call 911.