Every year there are 26,000 fires in the US that are related to the chimney, fireplace or another heating appliance in the home. While this is unfortunate on a positive note many of these chimney fires are preventable.
Many of these fires are caused because homeowners make the mistake of throwing almost anything in their fireplace. It looks like a convenient place to get rid of unwanted combustibles. The safest thing to burn is dry, seasoned firewood. Here are some of the items that we throw into our fireplace without knowing the serious consequences of our actions:

1.Colored paper. Many types of colored paper use inks used in wrapping paper that can give off toxic fumes when burned. Another risk is that these types of paper burns very quickly and might enter the chimney and ignite the creosote or tarlike residue that lines the inside of the chimney.

2.Painted, stained, or treated wood or manufactured wood including plywood and particle board. Once again these woods are treated with chemicals that can produce toxic fumes when burned. Not to mention burning manufactured wood products produces carcinogens or substances that can cause cancer.

3.Leftover food and packaging. Deadly toxins from burning items like fast food packaging pizza boxes, plastic cups, and used containers

4.Accelerants like gasoline, kerosene, or barbecue lighter fluid are highly flammable substances and produce high flames.

5.Coal or charcoal burn more intensely and carbon monoxide which might not be safe for your chimney or you.

If you use your chimney and fireplace regularly you should have your chimney cleaned twice annually if you want your fireplace in order to remove creosote buildup or residue from the burning wood. Chimney fires occur when a fire starts in your chimney because the flammable creosote is ignited. You’ll hear a loud cracking and popping noise, a lot of thick smoke, and a strong smell. It’ll sound like an explosion in your fireplace and flames and sometimes dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Another kind of chimney fire is slow-burning chimney fires which aren’t as sensational but as deadly. High temperatures that rise rapidly can really damage the chimney structure.

With proper chimney system care, chimney fires and fires in the home caused by irregular maintenance can be prevented. The only way to protect your home is by scheduling a regular chimney inspection and cleaning.