Stephanie Potter

PITTSBURG — Fire safety becomes a priority as the weather cools and the holiday season approaches.

Pittsburg Fire Marshal Thomas Vacca shared a few essential tips on keeping homes safe while enjoying the crackling of an open fire.

Vacca said one first things to do to prepare for fireplace use is to have it inspected and cleaned by a certified technician once a year to avoid preventable fires from soot build-up.

He said it is also important to test smoke alarms monthly and to keep a fire extinguisher around in an event of a fire.

A carbon monoxide detector is another safety feature which should be kept in a home with a fireplace, Vacca said. Smoke and carbon monoxide combination detectors can be purchased at local home supply stores, he said.

In homes where there are children, Vacca said he suggests having a barrier to prevent them from getting too close to the flames.

“We definitely want to have some sort of barrier in front of it to keep the kids from getting too

close to fireplace,” he said.

He said a 3-foot kid-free zone away from open flames is suggested.  

Vacca said the type of wood, such as dry seasoned wood, can help prevent popping which could cause burns if sap is in the wood.

A sturdy screen can keep sparks from flying around the room, Vacca said, and ash should always be placed in a metal container — never in plastic as it could melt — and the ashes should be cooled before being disposed of.

He said people with a natural gas fireplace should call their gas company immediately is they can smell the gas in the air. Vacca said to not light anything and ventilate and to call emergency personnel if there are concerns.

When it comes to the Christmas tree, Vacca said to keep it at least three feet or more away from any heat source, including the fireplace. The same is for flammable decorations.

He also said to use flameless candles as an alternative and to use lights that have been tested in a qualified lab, along with turning of the tree lights before heading to bed or leaving home.

Vacca said real trees in the home can be a fire hazard, to reduce risks he said to water the tree regularly to avoid the tree becoming dried out. When the season is over, he said to dispose of the tree as soon as possible.

For more information about fire safety, Vacca said to visit or

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.