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Old Smokey's Fireplace & Chimney's Blog

The Dangers of Chimney Fires

Reducing Fire Hazards This Holiday Season - Fort Wayne IN - Old Smokey's Fireplace and Chimney

Did you know that keeping your chimney well maintained and swept annually can not only keep your heating appliance operational, but it can also help keep you and your family safe? Chimney fires are dangerous and can cause a lot of damage to a home. In fact, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) states that more than 20,000 residential house fires every year are caused by chimney fires? One of the most upsetting things about this statistic is that most of these chimney fires could have been prevented with an annual chimney inspection and cleaning. In fact, research by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that a majority of chimney fires are caused when a chimney is not properly cleaned. Here at Old Smokey’s, we want to make sure that you and your home is safe from the dangers of a chimney fire. Let us show you why having a clean chimney is so important.

How Does My Chimney Get Dirty?

When you burn fuels such as wood, pellets, and coal, it naturally creates a product called creosote. Creosote is formed when the fuel that you are burning isn’t hot enough (less than 1100 degrees Fahrenheit) to completely burn off. When fuel isn’t completely burned, it is released from the fire as byproducts in the form of smoke, soot, and other gases. As these byproducts go up your chimney, they cool and start to condense. As this condensation starts to build up over time, it creates a sticky tar-like substance. This substance is creosote. Wood that is drier and properly seasoned will burn at higher temperatures than wood that is wet and not seasoned and, therefore, produce less creosote.

Another way that your chimney can get messy is if it isn’t protected from the outdoors. The inside of your chimney makes a perfect spot for many types of birds and small mammals to build nests. Furthermore, if the top of your chimney is open, leaves, branches, and other items can blow or fall into the top of your chimney and become lodged within it.

What Issues Can a Dirty Chimney Cause?

Creosote is combustible, meaning it can catch fire. Although it takes very high temperatures to cause combustion in creosote, it is possible that it can happen in your chimney. One of the most dangerous things about a creosote fire is that once it starts, it is nearly impossible to extinguish. You are at risk of a chimney fire even if there is a small amount of creosote buildup in your chimney. If fact, it can take as little as ⅛ of an inch of creosote buildup in your chimney for it to be considered a fire hazard. The likelihood that creosote in your chimney catches fire is increased if there is debris from trees, litter, or animal nests in your chimney. This type of debris lights at lower temperatures, but if it catches fire, it can easily cause a chain reaction that can lead to creosote igniting and then your home.

Another issue related to creosote and other debris is that if left to build up for a while, it can block up your chimney, which can cause all sorts of issues with your fireplace’s airflow and chimney’s exhaust. If your fire isn’t getting enough airflow, it can cause a cycle that leads to cooler fires which will create more byproduct and therefore more creosote, restricting airflow even more. Total chimney blockages can lead to smoke billowing back into your home, damaging your home’s carpet and walls.

How do I Prevent Chimney Fires?

There are a few things that can be done to prevent chimney fires from occurring. The first thing that you can do is to choose good firewood. Although you can’t totally prevent creosote from forming, if you use firewood that has been seasoned by letting it dry for at least six months after chopping, you can slow the pace of creosote buildup. Because there is less water in seasoned wood, it burns hotter and produces less smoke and, therefore, less creosote.

However, the most important thing you can do to prevent a chimney fire is to have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned at least annually by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney technician. At Old Smokey’s, our CSIA certified technicians can inspect your chimney, making sure it is clear of debris. If there is debris, they might suggest installing a chimney cap to prevent issues with debris from happening again. After the inspection, our technician will sweep all of the creosote out of your chimney, being careful to cover up and protect any valuables in your home. Once sweeping is done, our technician will clean up and go over the details of the inspection with you.

If you haven’t had your chimney inspected in the past year, you may be putting your home at risk! Call Old Smokey’s today to schedule your chimney inspection and chimney sweeping. You can reach Old Smokey’s at 800-876-6539 or 260-424-0009, or you can schedule an appointment online. We look forward to serving you and keeping you and your family safe in 2020!

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.

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