The Key To Preventing Chimney Fires
Chimney fires are extremely dangerous and can result in thousands of dollars of property damage and even death if they spread to the structure of the home. With over 25,000 chimney fires in the country annually, it’s important to identify common causes of chimney fires and how they can be prevented. An annual chimney inspection is recommended to ensure that your chimney is working properly and to identify if your chimney needs a good cleaning. This simple inspection can also identify potential chimney fire hazards so you can address them immediately.
What causes a chimney fire?
In general, the most common cause of chimney fires is a build-up of creosote. When a fire is lit in your fireplace, smoke and particles that were not fully incinerated float up into your chimney shaft. Once the fire burns out and the temperature in the chimney cools, substances from smoke and the left over particles attach to the chimney walls which then harden into a black, sticky goo called creosote. Creosote is actually highly combustible and if too much build-up exists on the inside of the walls, a chimney can quickly & easily catch fire.
Identifying a chimney fire.
There are actually 2 different types of chimney fires that can occur. They are easy to tell apart, but both types are quite dangerous and can cause a great deal of damage to the chimney and even your home.
Free Burning: This unmistakable chimney fire is the easier of the two to detect. Why? A free burning fire will sound like a freight train is coming through your home. This blaze produces a loud roar and is accompanied by billowing smoke and flames spewing from the top of your chimney.
Slow Burning: Although no less dangerous, a slow burning chimney fire is a bit harder to detect. Instead of producing roaring flames, these fires actually burn slowly but at extremely high temperatures. If left undetected for too long, they could easily catch other parts of your home on fire.
What to do if your chimney catches fire.
Fires, no matter what type, are dangerous. The first step should be to get everyone out of the house and call the fire department. Once everyone is safe and ONLY if the situation is safe enough to reenter the house, you can attempt to cut off the air supply to the chimney by closing the damper. Close the glass doors or any other fire grates and immediately leave the home to wait for the fire department. It will be important to monitor the wall temperature on any walls surrounding the chimney to make sure they did not catch fire during the incident.
The Best Ways to Prevent a Chimney Fire
- Don’t burn green wood: wood be completely dry or seasoned before it is burned in a fireplace. You can identify dry wood by its sound and color. Wood that is completely dry will sound hollow when hit and it will also be dark in color. Generally, wood takes about 6 months to fully dry.
- Don’t use gasoline or kerosene as a fire starter: a fire should be started with clean and dry newspaper or a starter log. Use gasoline or kerosene can cause a fire to get too big too fast.
- Only burn firewood: your fireplace is no place to burn things like cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash, or other things like your left over Christmas tree.
- Have your chimney inspected & cleaned regularly: at least once a year you should have your chimney inspected. A certified chimney sweep will be able to tell you if there is a build-up of creosote or other issues that could start a possible chimney fire.
If a chimney fire has happened to you, even if it was just a small one, you must address the cause of the fire or it could happen again. Once a fire has taken place, the best thing to do is call a chimney sweep professional to determine and address the cause of the fire before you even think about lighting another fire in your fireplace.
Chimney fires are extremely dangerous and not something that you want to experience firsthand. The good news? With the proper precautions, chimney fires are completely preventable and all it takes is a little chimney knowledge. Only burn materials that are meant to be used in your fireplace, use the correct fuel source, and remember to have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned when a build-up of creosote has begun to form. Because a clean chimney won’t burst into flames, annual inspections and cleanings should be part of your regular home maintenance and not neglected. Don’t get caught off guard by a blazing chimney fire! Keep a clean chimney and your house will be a safer place to live and enjoy.
Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004