Cozy Up to a Family-Friendly Fireplace

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A warm hearth is a welcoming spot in any home, but fireplace and woodstove areas present many safety hazards for young children. KidSmartLiving founder and home safety advisor Krista Fabregas offers tips to help reduce these dangers and ensure safe, family-friendly fireside gatherings.

Fall winds and rustling leaves foretell cozy family evenings around a crackling fire. While a warm hearth is a welcoming spot in any home, it can be a hazardous area for young children. Krista Fabregas, founder of KidSmartLiving, offers families several tips to help reduce the many dangers associated with fireplaces and woodstoves.

Protect Small Children from Hearth Areas and Open Flames “Even without a burning fire, the hearth area presents a year-round danger to young children,” says Krista, “but parents can minimize these hazards with a few simple precautions.”

In homes with raised hearths, protect toddlers from rough edges and sharp corners using padded bumpers like the Kid’s Edge Hearth Pad. Made of fire-retardant foam, these bumpers easily attach to the hearth to prevent accidental bumps and cuts.

But padded guards do not limit access to the fireplace itself. Parents should secure the fireplace opening with installed doors or a sturdy screen, and keep it clean of ashes and burned debris so curious hands stay soot-free. If glass fireplace doors do not latch, Krista recommends using a lock like the Fireplace Door Guard by Baby Patrol, which secures most glass doors when the fireplace is not in use.

“For fireplaces and woodstoves that receive heavy use, barring children’s access to the entire area is the best way to prevent injury,” says Krista. “A versatile barrier like KidCo’s HearthGate™ keeps children safe from the fire’s heat as well as the hearth’s hard surfaces – yet allows adults easy access through a built-in gate.”

Remember, too, that fireplace tools, wood boxes and natural gas valve keys present dangers. Move these to less-accessible spots if the hearth area is not enclosed within a barrier like the HearthGate.

Chim-Chim’ney! Maintain a Safe Chimney

To ensure safe operation, fireplace and chimney systems should be inspected and cleaned each year – even in warmer climates where fireplace use is less frequent.

“Most fire prevention experts blame flammable creosote build-up or obstructions such as birds’ nests for the majority of chimney-based home fires,” says Krista. “Plus, obstructions, cracks and deterioration can allow dangerous carbon monoxide to escape into the home. These hazards are easily prevented through regular chimney maintenance.”

Parents can consult a professional chimney sweep for cleaning and inspection services. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) publishes a nationwide list of certified “Sweeps” online at

Enjoy Crackling Warmth – Safely!

“Most fire safety experts agree that seasoned hardwood and artificial firelogs produce the safest open flame,” says Krista. “And they seriously warn against using flammable liquids such as charcoal lighter fluid or gasoline as fire starters. Vapors from even small amounts of these liquids can cause a deadly explosion – they should never be used with an open flame.”

She advises parents to build an appropriate size fire for the fireplace or woodstove. A large fire may not draw up the chimney properly, filling the room with smoke or dangerous gasses; plus it can overheat the surrounding wall or roof materials, causing them to deteriorate or even ignite.

“When building a fire, experts find that placing logs toward the rear of the fireplace usually ensures a better draw of smoke up the chimney, and keeping the damper open until the ashes are cool minimizes any buildup of deadly carbon monoxide.” she says. “If using newspaper as a fire starter, they remind parents to burn only the black ink sections as colored inks may release toxic fumes when burned.”

For this reason, too, never burn wrapping paper or other rubbish in a fireplace.

Last, but certainly not least, parents should check the operation of fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and replace all old batteries. If there is no fire extinguisher in the house, now is the time to purchase one and to learn how to use it. Make it a pre-holiday gift to the family and enjoy fireside gatherings with added peace-of-mind.

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Krista Fabregas is the founder of KidSmartLiving, providing parents with excellent resources, ideas and products that help create stylish, safe family homes and low-maintenance lifestyles.

Visit the website at, or email Krista at

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