As the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, more time is spent indoors. Here are some tips and safety checklists to reduce risk and prevent accidents around your home at this time of year.
Gas Fireplaces – Too Hot For Tots
Gathering around the warm glow of a fireplace provides comfort for many Canadian families over the winter months. The use of a gas fireplace is becoming a popular alternative to the traditional wood-burning fireplace, especially in newer homes. A gas fireplace is simple to use, provides an instant fire at the turn of a switch, and produces heat to warm a home. But gas fireplaces get hot quickly and hot temperatures burn children fast.
Second Leading Cause of Burns
Every year, children are burned from contact with the glass barrier at the front of a gas fireplace. Statistics show that contact burns, injuries sustained when a part of the body touches a hot object, are the second leading cause of burns in children.
In the case of gas fireplaces, children usually burn their hands and fingers on the glass and metal parts of the door. When hands are burned, patients often require repeat medical visits, rehabilitation, and can even suffer a loss of hand function.
Young children under five years of age, and especially those under two years, are at an increased risk. Children have been burned when they have fallen towards the gas fireplace and have pushed up against the hot glass for balance. Serious third-degree burns are the result. Others have touched the glass only for a moment out of curiosity. It takes just two seconds to be seriously burned. Many children have been burned while parents are in the room.
Children are not only at risk for burns when the gas fireplace is in use but before and after use too. The glass barrier can heat up to more than 200 °C in about six minutes during use. It takes an average of 45 minutes for the fireplace to cool to a safe temperature after a fire has been extinguished. Some children have even been burned when the fireplace is not in use, by the heat from the ignition light. Children are at risk of a burn injury whenever they are around a gas fireplace.
“It takes just two seconds to be seriously burned. Many children have been burned while parents are in the room.”
“Create a barrier around the gas fireplace. Safety guards can be installed to keep your child at a safe distance at all times.”
Keep Your Child Safe Around Gas Fireplaces:
- Never leave a young child alone near a gas fireplace; they can be burned before, during, and after use of the fireplace.
- Create a barrier around the gas fireplace; safety guards can be installed to keep your child at a safe distance at all times.
- Teach children about the dangers of fire; children are fascinated by heat and fire and may not understand the dangers.
- Consider not using the fireplace if you have young children less than five years of age, using it only after your children have gone to sleep, or consider turning the unit off completely, including the ignition flame, whenever the unit is not in use.
- Be aware of contact burn dangers from irons, curling irons, radiators, older oven doors, wood-burning stoves, and fireplaces
Reprinted with permission from Safe Kids Canada www.safekidscanada.ca
Wood Stoves and Wood-Burning Fireplaces
It can be comforting to curl up beside a crackling fireplace, or gather family and friends around the warmth of a wood stove on a wintry night, especially during the holiday season. Take the necessary steps now to ensure that wood stoves and fireplaces are operating properly and free of potential hazards.
Safety and Maintenance Tips
- Inspect and clean your chimney. The Ontario Fire Code requires homeowners to maintain their heating appliances in safe operating condition. The Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000 requires homeowners to have heating appliances inspected, including chimneys or vents.
- Check stove pipes and connections. Ensure that screws are located at every joint and that each connection is a tight secure fit. Also look for signs of dark staining or white powder (also referred to as leeching) at every joint. Rust is a clear sign that it is time to replace the stove pipe.
- Check for creosote. Creosote is a by-product of combustion that can form quickly on the interior walls of your chimney. It is a black or brown gummy substance that builds up on the flue and can be seen using a flashlight. Once a sufficient amount of creosote builds up, it can catch fire, so it should be checked frequently and removed.
- Check walls for excessive heat. If the wall above your fireplace or wood stove gets very hot, it could be a sign of improper chimney installation and a potential fire hazard.
- Protect walls and floors from heat and sparks.Keep combustible objects away from your wood stove or fireplace and always use a properly fitted screen to cover the fireplace opening. Floors and walls should be protected with noncombustible shields.
- Install a rain cap. A rain cap on top of your metal or masonry chimney will prevent moisture from getting inside and causing rust and corrosion. If the cap has a spark screen, inspect it regularly for blockages.
- Watch for the warning signs. Look for corrosion or rust on the outer shell of a metal chimney. Watch for bulges or corrosion of the liner as well. Loose bricks, crumbling mortar, dark stains and white powder all indicate problems with a masonry chimney. They should be repaired immediately by a qualified heating contractor or mason.
- When in doubt, call an expert. The safest and most practical way to handle the annual maintenance of your chimney, wood stove and fireplace is to contact a WETT* Certified Chimney Sweep. It is a relatively small investment for peace of mind.