Curling up in front of a warm fireplace is just one of many ways to enjoy the winter season. But before you light that fire, be sure to keep these three safety tips in mind.

Burn Only Dry, Cured Wood

Logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to twelve months are ideal for burning in your fireplace. When storing your logs, cover the top of your log pile, but leave the sides open for better air flow. Although dry firewood is the most crucial factor, selecting hardwoods like hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash will give you the longest lasting burn in your fireplace. Avoid lumber, painted wood, or other treated wood as it releases chemicals into your home when burned, compromising air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your wood fireplace going, but they generally burn very hot, so be safe and use one at a time. Remember to always use fireplace tools to handle burning logs, and never use your hands.

Keep Your Chimney Clean

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) states that fireplaces should be cleaned when 1/8″ of sooty buildup is evident inside the chimney and flue system. Any time an appreciable accumulation of soot and creosote occurs, it can be enough to fuel a chimney fire that may damage the chimney and even spread to the roof and home. Ideally, before the start of the burning season is the perfect time to have your chimney inspected or cleaned.

Keep Your Fire Contained

Always keep the screen in front of your fireplace closed to prevent sparks from jumping onto nearby carpeting. You can invest in a nonflammable rug at a fireplace-supply store, and place it in front of the fireplace so that sparks won’t melt or otherwise damage your carpeting. Also, never leave an active fireplace unattended when children are in the house. Adults, even if near, should prevent children from playing near the fireplace or with any of the fire tools and equipment.