As temperatures drop, nothing makes us feel warm and cozy quite like a log in the fireplace with our family gathered closely around us. As we appreciate the comfort and warmth that a fireplace can provide for us, it is important to remember that playing with or close to a lit fire is dangerous for children. Please follow these helpful safety tips to ensure that your loved ones may enjoy time with family.

While the fire is burning, keep a window cracked open, so that fresh air can circulate into your living space.

Be sure to keep the damper or flue open before starting the fire. Doing this until the fire is completely extinguished will help draw smoke out of the house. To check the damper, look up in the chimney with a flashlight or mirror. Do not attempt to close the damper until the embers have completely stopped burning.

Use dry and well-aged wood. Wood that has become wet or green tends to cause more smoke and contributes to soot buildup in the chimney. When wood is dry, it tends to burn more evenly and produce far less smoke.

Smaller pieces of wood that are placed on a grate burn more rapidly and produce less smoke.

Make sure your fireplace is free of ashes left behind from previous uses of your fireplace. Levels of ash at the base of your fireplace should be kept to 1 inch or less. Thicker layers restrict the air supply to logs, thus causing more smoke.

Consult a professional to inspect your chimney at least once a year.

It is important that you inspect your chimney for any animal nests or other blockages. These can prevent smoke from escaping which can be dangerous.

Install safety screens in front of your fireplace to prevent possible burns to children. This includes gas fireplaces.

The area around your fireplace should be free and clear from any objects that could be flammable (i.e. furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.). Having any of these items too close to a fire could spell disaster.

Never leave a room that has a fire going in the fireplace. Make sure it is fully extinguished before either leaving the room or before going to sleep or before leaving the house. Do not leave small children unattended in a room where a fire is burning.

Leave fireplace tools far out of reach of children. Additionally, remove any lighters or matches.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These should be tested every month to make sure they are functioning properly. Batteries should be changed at least once a year. Carbon monoxide is a dangerous odorless, colorless gas, so you need to have working carbon monoxide detectors to make sure you and your family remain safe in the event of an emergency.

Keep a fire extinguisher close by.

Have a conversation with your children about the potential dangers of fire.