It is important to inspect a fireplace screen or guard to ensure it can safely protect against embers escaping the fireplace. In homes where there are young children, an added barrier may be needed in front of the fireplace to prevent little hands from touching the hot screen.
It is vital to open up the chimney flue before starting any fire. This allows fresh air to feed the fire and will enable smoke to exit the home. Failure to open the flue can result in smothering, dirty smoke filling the home quite quickly. The flue should be closed after the fire is completely extinguished so that animals and outside debris don't enter the home via the opening.
Be sure to have a metal container for removing and storing hot ashes handy. Embers and ashes can stay hot for quite some time, so they should be placed outdoors, ideally far from the home so they don't set anything ablaze.
Educate household members about the rules of fireplace use. They should be aware that no items should be discarded into the fire to avoid the emission of toxic fumes or dangerous embers. All it takes is one stray ember to start a huge fire. Also, improper fuel materials may lead to the buildup of flammable creosote on the chimney.
A fireplace can be a focal point, a source of home heating and just a nice place to which to retire when the weather is cold. Preparing the fireplace for use and maintaining it properly are the keys to a safe season of use.