Along with proper installation and regular maintenance, one of the most important parts of using a fireplace or wood burner safely is to ensure that fires are put out completely when you have finished with them.
Even a fire that has died right down could still send out a spark that could land on your carpet or any other combustible object nearby. We may be contradicting the home décor magazines here, but we strongly advise against stacking firewood next to your fire for this very reason, no matter how good it looks. There have been numerous tragic incidents where people have gone to bed without properly extinguishing a fire, only for it to spread with devastating consequences.
In this blog we cover how to put out a fire in a fireplace and a wood burner to ensure the safety of your family and property.
Like many things in life, taking short cuts when putting out a fire will only lead to more problems. You may be tempted to use water to douse your fire, but this is a bad idea as it will instantly generate a lot of very hot steam which could scald you, or it will mix with the ash to form a sticky mess that is a pain to clean.
Usually when you have finished enjoying your fire it will have already burned down so that it is mostly a mound of ash and glowing embers. These can still be very hot though, especially inside the middle of the mound. What you need to do is first disperse this heat and then smother it completely.
Start by using your fireplace poker to break up any bits of wood and clumps of embers that may be capable of reigniting. They may flare up briefly as they are exposed to oxygen but be patient as they will quickly lose heat as you spread them out. You can speed up this process by sprinkling baking soda on the embers which is an excellent fire retardant. Some people use sand in place of baking soda, but you need more of it to achieve the same effect, and it adds to the waste that you will need to clean up later.
If you have to put out a fire that is burning more strongly, perhaps because you must leave the house unexpectedly, then you can follow the exact same process, allowing more time and perhaps a bit more baking soda. There are few emergencies important enough that it is worth leaving a burning fire unattended!
Putting out a fire in a wood burner
This is a little quicker and easier as being contained in a sealed box, it is quite easy to starve the fire of the oxygen that it needs to burn. Do this by closing the air vents completely and then wait for a few minutes. Once the fire has died down you can then use a poker to spread out the embers evenly across the base of the wood burner so there are no pockets of hotter material. You can then sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the embers, which will kill off the last remnants of combustion.
At no stage should you close off the chimney damper as you want all harmful carbon monoxide to dissipate up the chimney and not leak into the room.
Disposing of embers
Ideally you should wait until ash has cooled completely before disposing of it into your general waste bin. If this is not possible then you should shovel it into a metal container like a fire bucket, which should then be left outside, well away from your house or anything that could catch alight. This can then be tipped into your rubbish bin at a later stage.