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Old Smokey's Fireplace & Chimney's Blog

What to do if there’s a chimney fire (and why our services can prevent them)

Your fireplace offers you comfort and warmth. However, you must be careful to remember that your fireplace is an appliance and, like any other appliance, it needs proper care and maintenance to operate safely. If your fireplace is not maintained properly it can lead to a number of issues including chimney fires. We here at Old Smokey’s hope that you never have to experience a chimney fire, but we also think that it’s important to know what to do in case of a chimney fire and how you can prevent a chimney fire in the first place.

fire

What causes chimney fires?

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), more than 20,000 residential house fires every year can be attributed to a fire that started in the chimney. The most devastating thing about chimney fires is that a majority of them could have been prevented with just a little maintenance and upkeep. In fact, research by the National Fire Protection Association has shown that a majority of chimney fires were caused by chimneys that were not cleaned properly.

If the inside of your chimney is dirty, it is a safety hazard. There are a couple of ways in which a dirty chimney can lead to a chimney fire. First, if your chimney doesn’t have a chimney cap on top of it, debris from trees, blowing leaves, and animal nesting can cause blockages in your chimney. This kind of debris is combustible and can start on fire if it gets hot enough. The other way your chimney can catch on fire is due to creosote. When you burn fuel, chemicals that aren’t burned off are released as byproducts in the form of soot, smoke, and other gases. When these byproducts flow up your chimney, they start to cool and condense on the inside of your chimney walls. This condensation will accumulate into a thick tar-like substance called creosote. Creosote is combustible and when it catches fire, it is very hard to put it out. Creosote fires are considered more dangerous than debris fires because they burn hotter, longer, and don’t extinguish easily.

How do I know if I have a chimney fire?

This is a difficult question to answer because sometimes a chimney fire will be obvious, and other times, you might not know that you even have a chimney fire. Sometimes a fire will not have enough oxygen to produce large flames, but these types of fire can still do a lot of damage to your chimney and home. If a chimney fire is fueled well enough, it can be very noticeable. Signs include: hearing a loud roaring noise by your chimney; ash and debris flying out of the top of your chimney; black smoke coming from your chimney, and popping and cracking noises coming from your chimney. Any one of these are an indicator that you have a chimney fire.

What should I do if my chimney starts on fire?

Preparation is key to reducing the impact a chimney fire will have on your home. Be sure to have a fire alarm installed nearby and check it periodically to make sure that it is working. An alarm will warn you if there is a fire and save you precious time. Also, have a chimney fire extinguisher on hand. These are specially designed extinguishers that send smoke up your chimney, suffocating the fire.

If you have an active fire burning inside of your chimney, you need to get out of your home as quickly as possible and call the fire department. If it is safe to do so, use your chimney fire extinguisher and, if equipped to do so, close any doors or inlets to your fireplace or stove to reduce the amount of oxygen available to your fire before you head outside. Once outside, you have the option to hose down your roof to prevent the fire from spreading to your roof. However, spraying cold water on a hot chimney can cause your masonry to crack.

After your fire is put out, it may or may not look like there has been damage to your chimney. However, no matter what, you need to get your chimney a level 2 inspection by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney technician. Only a CSIA certified chimney technician will be able to determine what damage has been done to your chimney, and what, if anything, needs to be done to get your chimney back to safe operational status.

How can I prevent a chimney fire?

The best way to prevent a chimney fire is through annual chimney sweeps and inspections by a CSIA certified chimney technician. At Old Smokey’s our CSIA certified chimney technicians will make sure that any debris and creosote in your chimney is swept clean, rendering your chimney safe to use for the next year. Annual inspections are by far the best way to prevent chimney fires.

There are some other things you can do to prevent chimney fires. Installing a chimney cap to prevent debris from falling in your chimney and only burning seasoned wood to prevent excess creosote production. Doing these things alone won’t guarantee that you won’t have a fire, but it will help.

At Old Smokey’s your safety is our top priority. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your chimney inspected and cleaned, you could be putting your home at risk. Call us today at 800-876-6539 or 260-424-0009, or schedule an inspection appointment online. We look forward to keeping your home free of chimney fires this fall and winter.

Having an efficient dryer vent

Home appliances make our lives so much easier, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that our appliances need periodic maintenance and, inspections. Annual dryer vent inspections are important for a few reasons. At Old Smokey’s our ventilation experts want to remind you that having a clean dryer vent can make your dryer run more efficiently, saving you time and money. It also has the added benefit of keeping your home safer.

dryer ventilation system in ceiling

Clogged vents

It takes a lot of hot moving air to dry wet clothing. To avoid overheating, dryers need a place to vent the air it pushes through your clothing. For most models of clothes dryers, there is an opening for ventilation in the back. This opening is usually about four to six inches and is connected to a duct that directs the air into your home’s main ventilation ductwork, or outside of your home. When your dryer is in use, tiny pieces of cloth called lint break loose from your clothing. This lint gets caught up in your dryer’s airflow and is propelled toward your dryer’s vent until it is intercepted by your dryer’s lint trap. A lint trap prevents lint from entering your dryer and home’s ductwork.

Efficiency

Your lint trap doesn’t catch all of the lint pushed towards your ventilation, however. When lint gets past your lint trap, it can settle in your dryer’s ventilation. A build-up of just a little bit of lint can reduce airflow significantly. This reduction in airflow does two things: first, it makes it more likely that lint will get trapped in your ventilation duct; and second, it pushes cooler air back into your dryer making your dryer less efficient by extending drying times. If it gets to the point that there is a significant clog in your ventilation, not only does it drain your efficiency, but it can be a very serious safety hazard. Clogged dryer vents can lead to your dryer overheating, causing it to start on fire, or it can cause dangerous carbon monoxide gas to leak into your home.

Vent Cleaning

The best way to keep your dryer running efficiently and keep your home safe is to make sure your dryer vent is inspected annually by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified ventilation expert. At Old Smokey’s, our CSIA certified ventilation technicians have had a ton of knowledge and experience inspecting and cleaning dryer ventilation duct.
You can be sure that our technicians will have your dryer running efficiently and safely, year after year.

Once lint gets into your dryer ventilation, it will accumulate quickly, so don’t push off cleaning your ventilation for another year. If you live in northern Indiana, northern Ohio, or mid-Michigan and it’s been a while since you’ve had your ventilation inspected, call Old Smokey’s today at 800-876-6539 or 260-424-0009, or schedule an in-home appointment online.

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