We’ve all been there: we’ve got a lovely fire burning in the fireplace, ready to settle in and enjoy the cozy warmth, when something comes up and suddenly we need to leave the house unexpectedly. As responsible fireplace owners, we know that we can’t leave the fire going, and we want to make sure that there are no stray hot embers left that could jump out and start a fire, but what’s the safest way to extinguish the fire completely?
The Mechanics of a Fire
To understand how to put out a fire in a wood burning fireplace, we must first understand how a fire burns.
The Combustion Triangle
There are three things needed for a fire: fuel, heat, and oxygen. This is called the “Combustion Triangle”. To extinguish a fire, you must remove one of these elements.
FUEL: To extinguish a fire in a wood-burning fireplace, you certainly cannot remove the fuel - the burning logs.
HEAT: You can lower the temperature by allowing the fire to burn out naturally, but what if you don’t have time to wait? Another way to remove heat from a fire is to douse it in water, but we don’t recommend this. Not only will your room fill with smoke, but you may suffer burns. Also, when water mixes with ashes, a paste forms that is hard to clean off.
OXYGEN: In the event of an emergency, you must remove the oxygen.
Here’s a quick and easy step-by step process to help you safely extinguish a fire in your fireplace:
3 Steps to Safely Extinguish a Fire
Properly putting out a fire in your fireplace is not a time-consuming process, but it is very important that you do it right.
What You Need
Before you get started, make sure you have the following items on hand: fireplace poker, fireplace shovel, and baking soda.
Begin by using your fireplace poker to gently spread out the wood and embers. If your fire is still quite strong, this step will take a bit of time, but eventually the flames will start to die out. Spreading the wood and embers into a flattened mound will also help cool the fire faster.
After you have a mound of ash to work with, use your fireplace shovel to cover the cooling wood and embers. Repeat this step slowly and deliberately until all of the flames have been extinguished.
After your fire is completely out, ensure there are no tiny leftover embers burning by covering the wood with a thin layer of baking soda. Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate, which is an ingredient in many class C fire extinguishers that will completely extinguish any stray embers.
Additionally, once you’ve waited at least a few hours but preferably overnight, scoop up all the ashes and place them in a metal ash container. Store the container in a safe place outside of your home and away from any combustible materials for added protection.
Safely Extinguish a Fire in Your Fireplace - Infographic
A Word of Caution
While it may seem like a tempting and easy solution, NEVER attempt to put out a wood burning fireplace fire with water unless it is a matter of life or death or of saving your property! Not only can this fill your house with smoke and even cause steam burns, it can also cause cracking and heaving in the masonry structure.
The best way to protect yourself and your home in moments of true fireplace emergencies is to have a fire extinguisher on hand nearby or to invest in a product called Chimfex. Chimfex works well in emergencies because as soon as it hits the flames, it immediately releases the carbon dioxide needed to smother them.
Let Us Help!
Before you light your next fire, make sure your fireplace and chimney are in tip top shape by calling Doctor Flue to schedule our top of the line thorough inspection! We’ll make sure your fireplace and chimney are in the best and safest condition possible, which will give you peace of mind and keep your fireplace operating smoothly all winter long.
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