With severe cold and extended cold weather, homeowners turn to their fireplace as an additional source of heat or as a cozy place to gather, but often ignoring fireplace safety guidelines. Fireplaces and chimneys are involved in 42 percent of all home-heating fires. These deadly and devastating fires can be avoided.

Curling up next to a warm fire while cold winds blow outside sounds great, but ignoring safety rules can be deadly. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 22,300 resident fireplace and chimney fires, on average, annually. Most chimney fires are preventable through an annual inspection and recommended maintenance.

Our milder winters in the St. Louis area means homeowners don’t use their fireplace as often as they do with extended or extremely cold weather. Thinking that inspections and sweeps are not necessary due to low use, gives the owners a false sense of security. When temperatures drop, a fireplace could be the scene of a deadly accident waiting to happen.

Gregg Boss, Missouri’s only Master Chimney Sweep® and owner of English Sweep, explains, “Other frequent mistakes include going to sleep without properly extinguishing fires and embers in the fireplace, improperly disposing fireplace ashes, and making sure rugs, bedding, clothes, furniture, and paper is at least three feet away from the fireplace. Use metal mesh or a screen in front of the fireplace to catch flying sparks that could ignite or burn holes in the carpet or flooring. Don’t build a large fire. Too-hot a fire can crack your chimney. Just a couple of logs at a time is best.”

Recently, Midwest Chimney Safety Council issued a warning regarding the use of fireplaces for heating purposes. If used in this manner, a house fire could result.

MCSC President Marge Padgitt said “All fireplaces are decorative appliances and are not designed for heating purposes. If overused or over-fired, heat can transfer to nearby hidden combustible framing and cause a house fire.”

Boss has owned and operated English Sweep since 1983. Gregg can effectively educate viewers, listeners, and readers on the dangers of chimney fires and the need for an annual inspection by a Certified Chimney Sweep®. In addition to his certification, Gregg is a leader in the industry, serving on the National Chimney Sweep Guild’s board of directors, as an at-large director.

Gregg Boss of English Sweep (Valley Park) is available as a resource for St. Louis area media to explain simple and easy steps to take to keep fireplaces safe.