Safety Advice About Fireplaces

From a conversation on the old forum:

Fireplaces are very romantic but make sure they’re inspected every year. Of particular concern to local fire departments are the older fireplaces with chimneys that rise through floors instead of being attached to the exterior of your building.

Fireplaces that rise through buildings put the building at risk for a structure fire if they wear away on the inside and allow heat to come into contact with wooden floor beams or plaster.

The best way to safeguard yourself is to have a chimney service check your chimney every year.

Last night at the weekly training session for our volunteer fire department, the chief broke out our equipment for dealing with chimney fires. The equipment consists of a large metal tub, several tarps, a spade with a short handle, a heavy chain connected to an iron bar on the end, and a container of dry chemicals.

If we have to respond to a chimney fire, we will throw a ladder against the roof and climb onto the roof. We’ll throw one end of the chain into the chimney to help clear debris. We’ll then throw tarps over all of the furniture in the room with the fireplace, shut the doors, and sprinkle dry chemicals into the chimney.

Unless the fire has broken through the chimney to create a structure fire, we’ll put the fire out with the dry chemicals and then begin clearing debris out with a spade. The alternative would be to use water which would then flood the room in question with black soot. Unless it’s a structure fire, most fire departments won’t do this since we try to avoid damaging property whenever possible.

The chief said that last year we had several local fires that resulted because of birds nests or vegetation – both of which would have been cleaned out by a chimney sweep.

6 thoughts on “Safety Advice About Fireplaces”

  1. Our B&B has a policy on candles, we don’t allow them in guest rooms. However, I am thinking that our policy actually creates more risk, but I am looking for other opinions.
    Despite our policy, guests routinely bring in their own candles typically tea candles. They often put the tea candles on tables and nightstands which are antiques that I am sure would burn readily if given a chance. I am leaning toward providing jar type candles that are a safer alternative to the tea candles. The jar candles (like yankee candles) are larger, less likely to tip and are down in the glass jar far enough that the flame does not come up past the mouth of the jar. The tea candles on the other hand have exposed flames are small and sometimes freel drip wax on whatever they are sitting on.
    So I am torn between sticking to our policy and knowing that guests will still bring in candles that are less safe, or providing candles (maybe even for sale) that are much safer but still have some risk of fire.
    Any thoughts or experiences?

  2. We have the same problem with guests bringing candles, although our room policies are very clear about not burning candles. We personally have had two wax spillages on carpets, one table burned, and twice the unrelenting sweet odor of vanilla left behind for days…
    Some innkeepers are buying the flameless candles (battery operated – some even flicker) and placing them in their rooms to provide ambience without matches. You can search for flameless candles as one source – there are probably lots of others.
    I have not bought any but some other folks who have are happy with them.

  3. Posts: 137
    Location: Finger Lakes, NY
    PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 9:03 pm Post subject: Reply with quote Edit/Delete this post Delete this post View IP address of poster
    Thanks Jeanne, that is a very interesting idea. It is ironic, I had just seen some flameless candles in a restaurant and thought they were entertaining, but they were pretty cheap looking. But thanks to your suggestion I have now found others on the internet that are actually made of wax and seem to be pretty convincing. If they work and hold up, they might be a near perfect option. And I bet my insurance company would prefer them too

  4. Some rules I’m a stickler for, and I think the no-candle rule would be one I’d stick by. As you have pointed out, the candle flame as a fire hazard and the wax is a maintenance problem. Another problem that’s not as often addressed is the waxy smoke that comes from burning candles that can be a problem to clean off walls and ceilings.
    My hunch is that if you have a no-smoking policy that you stick by that, even if people persist in smoking. Perhaps your guest letter should outline the hazards of the candles, restate your policy, and talk about the penalty-charge levied on those who ignore your policy. And then again as you tour people through the inn, and take them to their rooms, you can talk about why you have your policies (of course using your gentle innkeeper words), looking the people in the eyes as you talk about it, and point oun in your guest letter where you discuss your policy and penalty.
    If it weren’t such a hazard, I’d be much less stringent about it, but….
    My $.02.

  5. well i am so glad we are all talking about this i have argued with hubby about this subject. we have agreed to place candles around the tub on the tile – we have agreed to use deep containers with tea lights – and we have agreed that some rooms cant have them. Because i am so new i have been naiive to think people would bring their own. So i guess it is time to talk to them a bout it. There is so much to tell them in the welcome to our inn conversation and to have to add the oh by the way dont use candles i hope i can remember. i am thinking about typing the whole speel on a piece of paper and say that they have to read it before they go to their room ha ha ha
    how about posting it on the back of their doors does that work?
    good subject

  6. This actually opens the door to another topic — turn-down service. I know it’s extra work for innkeepers and feels intrusive, but if you think about it as a way to protect your inn (and other guests) then you may see it very differently. I feel turn-down is an amenity to guests because it lets you tidy the room one last time (close closet doors and drawers, straighten pictures and lamp shades, and turn the beside lights on low) and to leave a treat — cookie, candy, or flower. But it’s also a chance to make sure that the room isn’t being “abused”.
    What abuse could a guest do, you may ask. I have soon things that will make your blood run cold.

    • wet towels left on the antique wooden furniture or bedspread
    • candles left burning on the bedside table — right under the lamp shade
    • Coleman fuel beside the fireplace — to “brighten” the fire when the guest returned from dinner
    • a hair dryer left running (actually, it probably hadn’t been turned off completely so worked its way back on) in a suitcase filled with plastic bags and cotton balls
    • windows left open on a winter’s day, which would be a freezing disaster after the sun set

    Find a way to incorporate turn-down service into your routine so that you can put the decorative pillows away in a clean place so that guests don’t have to figure out what to do with them. If guests have to deal with decorative items they could sleep on them or toss them on the floor — neither of which is quite what you want. Make sure the room is safe from inadvertent thoughtlessness. Make sure the guest is left with a cared-for feeling.
    You, your guests, and your inn will thank you for the attention.

Comments are closed.