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Gift wrap chimney fire danger when burned in fireplace

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The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends that only dry, seasoned wood be burned in fireplaces. Anything else can be a fire or health hazard.

Every year families look to the cozy fire in the fireplace as a way to burn up and get rid of the mass of gift wrap accumulated on Christmas day. And every year, local fire departments and chimney sweeps warn people against doing just that.

Burning gift wrapping can cause a chimney fire. Gift wrap burns very quickly and very hot due to the low moisture content and wide surface area of the paper. Instead of a normal fire, with the addition of gift wrap, suddenly a roaring bonfire is created in the fireplace or wood stove, which the appliance is not designed for. Sparks or flames can jump up through the damper and ignite nearby flammable creosote, resulting in a dangerous chimney fire.

Another issue with wrapping paper is the potential for toxic fumes. While the wrapping paper may produce pretty colored flames due to the different chemical compounds in the paper, the fumes produced are sometimes toxic. Gift wrap made in the U.S. is generally non-toxic, however, wrap made oversees may have substances such as Barium and Lead Chromate. which should not be inhaled.

The MCSC recommends that if a chimney fire does occur, call the fire department and get out of the house, even if it appears that the fire has gone out. Then call a chimney professional to inspect the chimney, flue, and fireplace for interior damages which often occur during chimney fires. Chimneys damaged by fire can be very expensive to repair.

Seasonal fireplace tips:

  • Only burn seasoned cordwood in a fireplace or wood stove
  • Avoid burning treated wood, dry pine, or gift wrapping in a fireplace or stove
  • Never burn dry Christmas trees in a fireplace - instead cut in to small pieces for kindling only
  • Remove ashes and place in a metal container designed for this purpose, then place outside on a non-combustible surface
  • Keep flammable items at least 36" away from the fireplace or stove
  • Do not hang stockings over the fireplace while it is in use
  • If a chimney fire does occur, call a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep immediately and do not use the fireplace or stove until it has been inspected
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