RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It might surprise you to learn that more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood-stoves or fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources, but unfortunately many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.
Whether you have a gas or wood-burning fireplace, fire officials want you to remember that means an open flame in your home.
"Anytime you have an open flame in a living area, you have a potential for burns and a potential for fire damage," said Lt. Matt Coffin of the Chesterfield Fire Department.
And that's just the beginning of the dangers that could come up.
Fire experts recommend getting your fireplace and chimney inspected annually, and remember if you are dealing with a gas fired anything carbon monoxide is a real threat.
Coffin said especially with all the holiday decorations gracing people's homes, you have to be cautious about what you put close to the fireplace.
"We are dealing with open flame and that heat and those combustibles, decorations and items that will burn easily become a real concern," he said.
Also be careful about what you put inside.
"Keep wrapping paper, cardboard and all those things you may think 'Oh, I'll throw this in the fire, it's not a big deal,' but it can be a big deal," he said.
And if you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove as a primary heat source, protect both the inside and outside of your home.
"Keep in mind, those fuel sources, that wood, next to the house is very dangerous, if someone is keeping wood, if you are keeping wood close to the house, close to decks for convenience, consider moving that away, and we would advise 10 feet or more," he said.
And don't forget the first step to protecting yourself from fire in any home is working smoke detectors.
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it's easy to ignore them, but they could save your life.