How to Make a Good Fire in Your Fireplace
You don't have to be an eagle scout to make a good fire in your fireplace. You just have to use the tried and trusted method.
Let us assume that you've had your chimney inspected and cleaned so that there's no build-up of flammable creosote to worry about. You've taken the old ashes to your compost pile, or you have cleaned them out the easy way with a Cricket Ash Vac.
Then, look up your chimney to make sure the damper is open. A "throat damper" is located at the bottom of the chimney and will open with a lever or with chain-pulls. If you have a "top damper," it's located at the top of the chimney and you open it by pulling a cable.
You've cleared the hearth of anything flammable. Now crumple 2-3 sheets of paper and put them in your fireplace grate. The fireplace grate enables your fire to pull in the air it needs to keep a good draft going up the chimney. Put a good handful of kindling strips, 1/2 inch by 10 inch pieces of pine wood on top of the paper. Better yet, use some fatwood for the kindling. Fatwood is a natural, chemical-free part of pine trees, cut into easy to use sticks, that creates a one-match, enduring flame for fire starting. On top of the kindling, criss-cross 8 or 10 dry pieces of hardwood, say 1 inch square by 1 foot long.
Crumple two sheets of paper and light them, holding them up inside the fireplace to warm the flue and establish an upward flow of air.
Light the paper in your fireplace grate from end to end. When the paper lights the kindling, and the kindling lights the hardwood, it's time to add 2-3 more pieces of split firewood. Place the firewood toward the rear of the fireplace so it will reflect heat into the room as it burns. As the fire gets established, you can add more firewood. Place your fireplace screen or spark arrestor in front of your fire to protect your family and home from stray sparks.
With practice, you will use just enough firewood so that the fire burns down to glowing embers by bedtime, when you are through with it for the day. That's the time to make sure a fireplace screen is standing guard over your fireplace!
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January 11, 2012