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Fireplace gifts can create cozy nights
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Gift ideas abound for people who enjoy spending time in front of a crackling fire.
"Safety, convenience and attractiveness are good factors to consider when making gift purchases for fireplace lovers," said Herb Willcutt, safety specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Screens are a safety factor first, and an aesthetic consideration second. There are pre-formed screens that are set in place around the fireplace. The fireplace screen does not have to be the exact size of the fireplace.
"Fireplace screens come in a variety of shapes, sizes and construction," Willcutt said. "The key to a good fireplace screen is to have a screen that will not tip over if a chunk of wood, a child or some other object bumps against it, and one that has a screen with a close weave to prevent sparks from leaving the fireplace."
Tools such as pokers and shovels should be handy in case the wood shifts and needs to be moved to a better position. Most fireplace tool sets include a small broom to help keep the hearth clean. Long work gloves will protect hands and arms when adding wood to a fire or in the event of an emergency.
"A decorative wood box can make it easier to apply more wood when the weather outside is very cold or wet. However, wood boxes can harbor insects and spiders if users are not careful," Willcutt said.
Wood starters such as kindling sold in special bundles can make ideal gifts. Willcutt said never use combustible liquids such as charcoal starter fluid, kerosene or gasolene.
"In general, natural substances are better for starting a fire and for cleaning out chimneys. Some man-made items may work fine for those jobs, but I believe it is better with fewer chemicals involved," Willcutt said.
Items for mantles can make thoughtful gift ideas, but Willcutt cautioned against combustible objects near the fire.
"Don't put anything on the hearth that could catch fire from the heat of a spark. Candles are popular on mantles, so you want to be sure other objects on the mantlepiece are not easily ignited," he said.