Power outages can occur during below-freezing weather, such as following an ice storm. You’ve got to plan ahead for alternative heating sources in that situation, and one possibility could be your fireplace.

But a power outage is NOT the time to try out your fireplace  or wood stove for the first time in the winter season. The chimney needs to have been inspected annually. While it can provide cozy warmth, there are all sorts of concerns to factor – such as a hidden blockage in the flue. (Which could spill smoke back into the living room). The chimney might have creosote or other products of combustion that have built up that would create an unnecessary fire risk.

Has your solid-fuel-burning appliance been given the OK? You still want to be careful about its operation, following the manufacturer’s instructions, if available. Only burn dry, seasoned wood in your fireplace, and you want to be conservative. You don’t want flames to go beyond the visible opening of the fireplace, for example.

If you are stacking wood, we suggest a top-down burn (larger pieces on bottom, smaller pieces on the top). [How to make a top-down burn? Read here about three easy steps … or watch this video!]

Want more wood-burning tips? See our CSIA website.

Use common sense — keep an eye on the fire and a screen in place to keep curious wee ones from being burned. Please be safe.

About 1,500 chimney sweeps are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Search by zip code at csia.org/search.