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A bear, a bird, a bunny & a squirrel: Our furry friends teach us why fire is fun

November 24, 2010

by Ashley Akin

I think we can all agree that fires are awesome. I should probably qualify: Fires that you control are awesome. I don’t want y’all running off over Thanksgiving and telling everyone that The Smallest User blog is waging war against poor Smokey the Bear. After all, only YOU can prevent forest fires.

Incidentally, I think I took that phrase wrong when I was little and felt a lot of pressure to single-handedly prevent all fires. But then I saw that litter commercial with the crying Indian, and I figured not throwing my McDonald’s wrapper out on the highway was enough to make me a good person.

Nevertheless, fires can be fun. You can use them for anything: making s’mores, cooking steaks, having seances, burning incriminating evidence… ya know, your everyday needs. But did you know, Smallest Users, that fires can be good for saving energy as well? It’s true – fires can help significantly reduce your heating bill as long as you know how to manage the heat they produce correctly.

And thanks to our friends at Home Tips, we do:

1) Close your doors and crack a window. This will trap the heat in the room you’re in while still giving the fire enough air to burn. This will also give everything in the room a serious bonfire smell for a few days, which I happen to love – it makes me feel like I live in a cabin and wear button-down sweaters and write mystery novels. Some people, however, complain about the smell yet still end up at Bed, Bath & Beyond buying a candle called something ridiculous like “Starry nights, fiery flames” and make me think: MORON. You’re paying $29.95 to make your den smell like a campsite when a fire could do that for free. To each his own and all that crap I guess.

2) Use the right grate. Make sure you have one that “maximizes heat flow to your room or has C-shaped parallel tubes that point toward the room.” This will recycle the air back into the room once it has been heated.

3) Always use the damper. Closing off your fireplace when not in use will keep cold air out and save you up to 15% of your energy bill. It will also, it turns out, keep critters such as birds or squirrels from coming down your fireplace and scampering through the living room Christmas morning, causing Mom to throw her coffee in Dad’s eyes and your brother to stand on top of the couch screaming like a little girl. Trust me – trying to catch a squirrel with a butterfly net is much easier if you take your brand new bunny slippers off before you start running across the wood floor.

And that’s really all there is to it. A little common sense and a lot of lighter fluid are a surefire way to put a spark in the holidays. And I should know. When I was 7-years-old, the neighbors were shooting bottle-rockets a little too close to our kitchen window when our TV exploded. We found out later that it was faulty wiring, but I will never forget Mrs. Keese herding her family inside and screaming “Leave the deviled eggs! The cops are coming!” while we calmly called the fire department. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Germantown is boring.

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