Embers popping out of an unscreened fire or chimney fires from creosote build-up are just two of the hazards that can be avoided with proper use and care. Wood burning fireplaces can also negatively affect indoor air quality. According to Burn Wise, a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency, “Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you.”
Any smoke escaping from the firebox into the room means the fireplace isn’t operating properly. Also, since fires consume a large volume of air as they burn, it’s possible to create negative pressure in the home as air from outside is drawn indoors to replace the air consumed by the fire. If that “make-up” air is drawn back in through the flues of gas- or oil-burning furnaces and water heaters, it can also draw deadly flue gases, like carbon monoxide, back into the home. This is called “backdrafting” and is one reason all homes should be outfitted with working, well-maintained smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
This quick safety check is a must for preventing fires -- even if you haven't planned on starting any fires soon.
Take a flashlight and peer up into your chimney's stack. Look for debris, soot, or white streaks. If it's clear then you're all done. If you do see buildup, this is a great time to call a professional. It can potentially be cheaper to hire a chimney sweep in the offseason as well.
If you have recently used the fireplace clean your wood burning fireplace's interior, including its floor, regularly. Sweep out or vacuum up cold ashes. Wear a dust mask and gloves when cleaning the fireplace.