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Old Smokey's Fireplace & Chimney's Blog

What You Need to Know About Chimney Fire

Because of their increased heating efficiency, many people have switched to using fireplaces, inserts, or stoves to supplement their homes heating needs. However, if these heating systems are not well maintained, they have the potential to turn into a fire hazard. Whatever type of appliance you operate, if your chimney isn’t being swept regularly, there is potential for a chimney fire. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), more than 20,000 residential house fires every year can be traced back to the chimney. One of the most unfortunate things about this statistic is that most of these fires could have been prevented with some maintenance and upkeep. At Old Smokey’s we want to raise awareness about chimney fires and help you understand how you can protect your home from them.

Chimney Fires 

Burning any type of fuel releases smoke, soot and gas byproducts, but wood tends to release more of that then other fuel sources such as natural gas. As these byproducts go up your chimney, they start to cool down and condenses on the inside of your chimney. This condensation will start to accumulate, forming a thick, black, tar-like substance called creosote. If enough creosote builds up, it can combust at high temperatures, creating a chimney fire that is nearly impossible to extinguish. As little as a ⅛ inch of creosote buildup is considered hazardous. Although you’ll always produce creosote when you burn fuel, you can reduce the number of byproducts produced in your fire by burning seasoned wood and maintaining hot fires.

Although natural gas doesn’t produce much creosote, there are other things that can cause a chimney fire. Debris from trees, animal nests and anything else that may have fallen or blown into your chimney can also be a fire hazard. This type of debris is usually made up of wood and leaves, meaning it can combust at lower temperatures than creosote and once it ignites, it can get hot enough to start the creosote in your chimney on fire as well. 

Inspections

The most important thing you can do to decrease your chimney fire risk is to have it inspected once a year by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep. Annual inspections are critical for making sure that your chimney and fireplace is operating properly. During an inspection a chimney sweep will make sure there is no damage to your chimney and fireplace, checking all the components of your chimney system (chimney cap, chimney crown, flashing, etc.) as well. They will also make sure that there are no clogs in your chimney and that there isn’t much creosote build up. If there is, it will need to be swept clean.

If you haven’t had your chimney inspected in a while, your chimney may be a fire hazard. We are now taking appointments for spring cleaning, so call us at 800-876-6539 or 260-424-0009 or reach us online to set up an inspection with one of our chimney sweeps. We look forward to serving you!

I Had a Chimney Fire – Now What?

I had a Chimney Fire - Fort Wayne IN - Old Smokey's Fireplace and ChimneyEvery year, fire departments receive a large number of chimney fire related calls. Some are minor, but some are major catastrophes that can result in the tragic and unnecessary loss of life and/or property. With home heating costs rising tremendously in recent years, more and more homeowners have turned to alternative methods of heating that are less expensive and more efficient to operate than central heating units, like that from fireplaces, inserts, and stoves. The potential for chimney fires has risen as a result of this more than usual reliance.

IN THE EVENT OF A CHIMNEY FIRE

Get everyone out of the house and to a safe distance from the home as quickly as possible. Call the fire department immediately (preferably from a cell phone from outside of the home). Once you’ve had a documented chimney fire, do not use the heating appliance again until you’ve had a thorough inspection and cleaning done. Any chimney fire damage and subsequent repair is typically covered by your homeowners insurance policy; give them a call as soon as you can!

SO WHAT CAUSED THE CHIMNEY TO CATCH FIRE?

Your stove and/or fireplace were designed to safely contain a fire. Your chimney is designed to expel the byproducts of combustion. As these substances go up your chimney, creosote is formed via condensation caused by the relatively cooler flue air. Creosote is highly combustible. If enough of it builds up in your chimney, it’s only a matter of time before you could have a destructive chimney fire. You can lessen you chances by having an annual inspection and chimney sweeping. Unfortunately, however, not all homeowners place a large emphasis on having this critical maintenance carried out. As creosote burns, it can expand tremendously and can partially or completely block your chimney, which in turn can fill your home with heat and deadly smoke.

CHIMNEY FIRES DAMAGE CHIMNEYS

If you have a prefab chimney, a chimney fire can cause buckling or warping at the inner liner joints. If this occurs, the chimney should no longer be used until it has been replaced in its entirety. Masonry chimneys can have very high temperatures (upwards of 2000°F) during a chimney fire. These extreme temperatures can cause the mortar to fail, chimney liners to collapse and cause damage to the outer masonry materials. If tiles crack and/or masonry is displaced, this creates a pathway for the fire to easily spread to the wood structures in your home. Because of the high temperatures, enough heat can even conduct through a perfectly good chimney and ignite your home during a chimney fire.

Following a chimney fire, barring that the fire as been contained, the next steps would be to have it inspected by a chimney professional. Preferably one that is CSIA Certified and will give your chimney a thorough look and inspection to determine and asses any damage and repairs to get your chimney and fireplace working again safely.

The chimney service professionals at Old Smokey’s Fireplace & Chimney want you to have a safe and happy heating season each and every year. Hopefully this information will be useful as you prepare your home for next heating season. If you have any questions about any of the information provided within this blog or if you’d like to schedule any fireplace, chimney and/or dryer vent services, please don’t hesitate to contact us; we’d love to hear from you! We look forward to helping you keep your family and your home protected and warm for the long haul!

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