According to the latest statistics available, there are over 25,000 Chimney Fires per year in the US that are responsible for over 125 million dollars in property damage. Luckily, with the proper use and upkeep, these types of fires are easy to avoid! If your chimney is clean, there will not be a fire; therefore, regular inspections and cleanings are necessary to ensure you and your home have a safe and happy winter season.
Cleaning and Inspection
Have your chimney and fireplace cleaned annually. Chimney liners or structural problems can allow high temperatures, sparks and embers to escape to combustible areas in walls, roofs or attics. A common cause of chimney fires is creosote inside the chimney catching fire and burning inside the chimney. Annual cleaning of the chimney will ensure better passage for the smoke and exhaust gases, in addition to regular removal of dangerous creosote. For best results, use the services of a certified chimney sweep.
A good way to prevent a chimney fire is by building small fires with dry, seasoned wood. This type of wood is the best choice for starting a fire because wet wood burns slowly, creating more smoke, which condenses on the inside of the chimney leading to creosote deposits. Always use wood that has been seasoned for 6 months or longer. Using safe starters as opposed to any kind of flammable liquid starter is also recommended for safe use. Airflow is also an important part of fire safety. Ensuring that your fire has proper airflow is also a way to avoid creosote build-up in your chimney. By keeping your damper fully open when your fire is burning you can be sure there is no restriction to the fire’s airflow.
Aside from proper cleaning, inspection, and use, there are some necessary accessories for your chimney that are essential in preventing a fire. One of these items is a chimney liner! Chimney liners provide better airflow which allows for the passage of the combustion gases that would otherwise contribute to the build-up of creosote. These liners also protect your structure from damage and excessive heating and exhaust fumes. As a result, your chimney is easier to keep clean. Another tool designed to prevent fires is chimney caps. These caps are designed to keep unwanted debris and critters out of your chimney, keeping your chimney clear of highly flammable twigs and leaves that may result in a fire.
Signs of a Fire
If your chimney was to catch fire, you must be able to recognize the signs and act quickly. In the case of a fire, you may detect: A loud, crackling or popping noise from the chimney flue (imagine the sound of a large bonfire) A lot of dense, thick smoke coming into the fireplace or out of the top of the chimney. Flames or things that are on fire (pieces of flaming creosote) coming from the top of the chimney. Although many chimney fires cause a disturbance, you may also have a chimney fire and never know it. Besides the raging blazes, slow-burning fires can also take place within the chimney walls and you may never know these fires are going on. These fires may burn silently, but their silence is no indication of the harm they may cause, slow-burning fires burn at incredibly high temperatures and can cause serious structural damage to the chimney as well as nearby walls of the home. If you think you may be experiencing a chimney fire, evacuate immediately and call your local fire department.