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Fireplace fun – how to enjoy warmth without danger!

Fireplace fun – how to enjoy warmth without danger!

I recently went to NZ for my Dad’s ‘big birthday’ – which one? hey he and his pals don’t look or act their age, so why should I spill the beans?

Suffice to say all of us, family and friends had fun at many events, especially at the dinner organised by his ‘Dance Group’ friends.


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However as a card-carrying Aussie I was quickly reminded that Oamaru (South Island) was a lot colder than I recalled.

So - what could be better than a cosy, old fashioned fire, like those I enjoyed growing up?

Awoooga, awooga. (sound of alarm bells).

The lounge room fireplace hadn’t been used in years. We kids moved out. Visitors visited in summer, so the fireplace and chimney had been untouched in years.

My sister kindly pointed out this fact when I suggested it would be fun (and warm) to build up a hearty fire.

“Birds have been nesting in there, goodness knows what else has happened to the chimney but if you simply build a fire, there’s a strong chance the whole house will burn down.” Judy said.

Smart lady my big sis. So I didn’t make a fire.

But it also got me thinking about the dangers that fireplaces pose for both pets and kids. 

Sure, any hot appliance gets a lot of attention from parents – but fireplaces – especially open fireplaces deserve special mention because of the danger of sparks.

While there might not be as many ‘open’ fireplaces these days, I have a long memory of lazing in front of the fire but keeping an eye open for ‘sparks’ – little pieces of burning wood that would launch out from the fire and needed to be tackled before they could seriously burn the carpet (actually the mat protecting the carpet).

So, given everything ‘old’ is ‘new’ again – I thought it might be useful to mention a few tried and true tips which those moving into homes with fireplaces might like to keep in mind.

1 The equivalent of a doggy fence/child-proof gate is a must. You might be able to teach a child that touching something ‘ouchy hot’ will hurt so they will avoid it – however our pets, especially younger pets will need an exclusion zone.

2 Glass-fronted fires are equally as dangerous as open fires. They burn. Protect kids and pets with a fire-guard or doggy fence.

3 Gas-fired heaters. Buy a simple carbon monoxide detector to ensure you and your fur and human kids don’t go to sleep and never wake up.

4 Chimney sweeps. Yes, they still exist and they’re a crucial tradie you should employ if you don’t know the history of a fireplace/chimney in a home. (For those who recall, it’s ok to emulate Dick Van Dyke and sing the chim, chimney song!)

5 Discourage your feline friends from checking out the residual warmth of a fireplace. My very first cat QQ simply adored climbing past the ashes and up into the warmth of the chimney. After he got accidentally singed, and appeared after we’d just lit a fire, he gave up his chimney adventures!!!

6 Bird owners make up the largest proportion of pet owners – most already know this, but if you’re new to wonders of our feathered friends, please keep them well away from any fire, bbq or any heating appliance. They’re sensitive to both temperature changes and also smoke particles in the air.

Bottom line, stay healthy and well this winter!



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Vet Pet & Animal News - Sat 19th March 2016


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