Millions of homes have a real log fire or wood-burning stove. So here are some tips on how to safely enjoy a real log fire for people and pets, how to keep your chimney safe and clean, and ideas for sustainable fire logs.
Keeping Pets Safe Near Real Fires
Pets can get burned or have sparks (if tails are wagging while dreaming) or dehydration. Or sleeping and not aware of the heat. Also pets that play could be at risk, especially if you ‘throw things’ into the fire. Don’t leave alone, even to pop to the loo. Take them away from the fire. Get a fire extinguisher and quality fireguard and use a secure basket and a tempting blanket to lure them away. Don’t have flammable items near the fire.
Do not use add pine cones or dried orange peel etc if you live with pets, as these scents can harm furry friends (especially cats, as they can’t break down essential oils in their liver).
How to Light a Real Log Fire
An open fire burns around five times more than a wood-burning stove. You can find recycled kindling from your local community wood store that is usually free or cheap, rather than buying it.
- Leaving a blanket of ash 3 to 5 cm deep for the kindling can hold the first embers and get the fire going quickly. Then place a large log at the back and smaller logs to the left and right, for an enclosure with an ash base. Use a tiny piece of firelighter (or paper or shredded cardboard) then add kindling sticks on top, and a couple of small split logs to put on top, once lit. Ensure all air-vents of a wood-burning stove are open, with the door slightly open possibly.
- Only use wood that is ready to burn with a moisture content of 20% or less. Sweep your chimney at least yearly (to remove the build-up of soot that if not cleaned can cause chimneys to catch fire). Loose bricks and birds’ nests sometimes can also fall into chimneys. If you have not swept your chimney regularly, sometimes your fire insurance is not valid. Sweet at least once a year for coal and twice a year for logs.
- Have wood-burning stoves serviced at least yearly and avoid overloading the grate or building high fires, and dispose of (cold) ash safely. Only light fires when needed and use a carbon monoxide alarm. Never leave open fires unattended and close the doors of wood-burning stoves if leaving the room.
- Store logs or coal away from the chimney, in a safe log basket.
- Always use a fire guard (a quality safety guard around children and pets). Although cats like staring into fires, they could be at risk from burns, so keep them safe.
- Do not dry or air clothes near a fire or fireguard.
- Avoid storing items in lofts close to chimneys, and check for smoke. Keep lofts clutter-free.
- Have a working smoke alarm on each floor of your home, and test regularly.
- Never block air vents or air bricks.
Keep Your Chimney Cleanly Swept
The Chimney Balloon is useful to stop warm air escaping (and cold air sinking) from your chimney. Like installing double glazing, it also stops debris and wildlife (like nesting birds) falling down the chimney. Chimneys suck air out of your roof and can cause draughts. This blocks the chimney to stop this happening. Made from tough plastic, just inflate a little to locate, then inflate until held in place. Created by an engineer and his wife, you’ll save around £50 a year in lost energy. Do not permanently block gas flues for safety (this is just a temporary blockage that would fall out, if the gas fire was lit). See frequently asked questions for more info.
If your chimney leans to one side or has missing bricks or cracked mortar joints or moss or grass growing from it (or soot marks), your chimney needs repairing.
Signs of a chimney on fire include a roaring sound and loud cracking, popping or rumbling, embers falling into the hearth or black smoke, sparks and flames from the top of the chimneys. Or obviously flames or hot chimney walls. Call 999, leave the room and get everyone out. If safe to do so, close the door and close vents and flue dampers to restrict oxygen from feeding the fire, then get outside using the nearest safety route and stay there until help arrives. If you are trapped, stay low to the ground and near a window. Call out for help, when firefighters arrive.
A More Sustainable Fuel Log
The Logmaker is a one-time purchase that helps you to make homemade logs from fallen leaves, newspaper, cardboard or teabags. If made using dry waste, you can use them immediately. If made using wet waste, once dry these give a dense and long-burning log. Made from recycled plastic, you simply blend up soaked newspapers and garden waste (even toilet rolls) to make free logs for your fire.
Coffee Logs are made from spent grounds from UK coffee shops, then shaped into logs. Suitable for wood-burners and multi-fuel stoves, they burn 20% hotter than kiln-dried wood and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 130%. They are sold nationwide and have a neutral aroma, though smell like coffee when you open the bag. The briquettes burn for around an hour in closed appliances, consult your guidelines, and don’t add more than three coffee logs at a time, as they kick out a lot of heat. They are not for barbecues, firepits, chimineas or outdoor fires. Store in a cool well-ventilated dry area, a safe distance from the appliance as they are combustible. Due to high caffeine, keep out of reach of children and pets, and seek emergency medical care if swallowed. Not authorised for burning in smoke control area.
To use, place firelighters on appliance bed and cover with plenty of kindling, then light the firelighters, close appliance doors and open the air vents, to get a good fame going. When hot, add 2 or 3 coffee logs facing front to bag. Adjust the air vents and enjoy your fire. They burn best undisturbed, so don’t prod or stoke them. You can also use them with wood logs. Each pack includes 16 logs, with a handy portable handle.