Chimineas (also commonly spelled chimenea and chimnea) are free standing fireplaces that look a lot like a pot bellied stove. They are a wonderful addition to your outdoor living space providing warmth on cool nights, and are an attractive feature in themselves. They do not present any dangers that cannot be prevented as long as you follow a few simple safety rules and use a dollop of common sense.
Outdoor Chimineas and safety
The first thing you are going to want to do before even purchasing one of these outside fireplaces is to find out if it is legal to burn any type of outside fire in the area where you live. Since these fireplaces are self contained they are often allowed even in areas where fire pits are prohibited. However, it is always best to check and make sure that using one is legal in your area
It sounds obvious but please read the book that comes with the chiminea and follow all the safety advice that is recommended by the manufacturer and use these fireplaces the way in which they are intended. So many potential problems can be anticipated by just looking through the guidance provided.
You are then going to want to find an area of your garden or patio that has no overhanging branches or shrubs close by as this presents an immediate fire hazard. This is also important if you have a cast iron chiminea as you will not want to move it far due to its weight. The area should also be flat to avoid any chance of the chiminea tipping over as clay versions can easily crack and cast iron models are also prone to damage.
The guidance notes will also contain assembly instructions which are important if you are putting together a cast iron chiminea. You should make sure all the necessary parts are present and assemble the item close to location you intend to use it. As a rule of thumb always get a friend to help you carry a cast iron chiminea or ask the shipping company to put it where you want it when they deliver it to your home. In some cases they may even be able to help you assemble it too.
Also ensure that your chiminea comes with a suitable spark guard if the fire is exposed. On most modern cast iron and steel chimenea this is a standard feature.
If you are planning on using the chiminea on a patio or an area of decking then either placing bricks in a three foot parameter around the fireplace or using a specially designed fire pit pad is a good idea. These heavy duty mats are perfect for keeping your deck or patio looking new as they protect the surface from embers and ash.
Whether you use a clay, cast Iron or steel chiminea it is going to get hot so if you have small children or pets placing a safety screen around your outside fireplace is the simplest and most effective way of ensuring they don't come in contact with the surface. Metal chiminea especially can get very hot and could easily burn the skin if touched. There are special safety screens designed and sold just for this purpose and they are an inexpensive way of avoiding any unfortunate accidents. Obviously telling your children of the dangers of fire and hot surfaces is also highly recommended.
Keep useful tools to hand so that you do not have to touch any part of the chimenea with anything unsuitable. Typical tool sets include a poker, tongs, brush and a small shovel. You should also keep a bucket or water hose close by in the case of an emergency and a pair of thick heavy-duty gloves as well.
Never use petrol or other similar accelerant to start a fire in a chiminea. This is a quick way to get seriously burnt. Instead use firelighters like you would when lighting a bbq. Natural firelighters, such as Ocote, from Central America give a pleasing aroma when lit and are popular way to start a fire in a chiminea. Other options include fire logs made of fibre and wax which are easy to light and can burn for up to two hours.
Indoor Chiminea Safety
Always remember that chimineas even those manufactured for indoor use are free standing and have no outside outlet for smokes and fumes. Therefore, burning wood in a chiminea if you plan to use it indoors is not advised. As an alternative, it is recommended that you use alcohol gel inserts as they burn cleanly and without harmful fumes or smoke. In fact, the only by product of using them is water.