Avoiding the dangers of "over-firing" your fireplace

Photo of damage from a home fire caused by fireplace "over-firing"
A safety tip from the Vancouver Fire Marshal's Office


Many people don't realize that all fireplaces are NOT created equal when it comes to the size and temperature of fires you burn inside them.

Many smaller fireplaces are primarily intended to provide ambience, not heat your home. These fireplaces are typically designed with little safety clearance between the containment "box" and the wood, fiberglass or sheet rock materials around them.

Danger comes when people build larger or hotter fires than what the manufacturer of the these smaller fireplaces recommends. This is known as "over-firing."

Burning things like paper trash (including wrapping paper) and construction lumber, or just overfilling the box with firewood creates extremely hot and large fires that will damage the containment box of smaller fireplaces over time. This allows the heat to be transferred to the structure of the house, which can lead to combustion.

The photo shown here is from a fire that took place in Vancouver in November. The heat from the large, hot fires burning in this small fireplace caused the studs in the wall to catch fire and the flames then spread upward. Fortunately, this fire was suppressed early and no one was hurt.

Never assume your fireplace can handle all s types of fire! Get a copy of your fireplace installation and operation manual and follow the instructions carefully.

Also, you should never burn treated lumber or trash in your fireplace because they introduce toxic fumes to your home.