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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.

Spring Is the Time for Dryer Vent and Chimney Cleaning

Did you know that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 211 Safety Standard suggests that people get their vents and chimneys cleaned at least once a year? One of the reasons for this is because the winter is tough on ventilation systems. Heating your home can leave your vents vulnerable to messes and clogs, potentially leading to fire and toxic gas hazards. That’s why we at Old Smokey’s believe that the spring is an excellent time to schedule your annual vent and chimney cleaning.

Dryer Vents

Dryer vents are used to channel hot air created in your dryer outside of your home. Although you have a lint trap in your dryer, little pieces of lint can still make it past the trap and get lodged in your dryer vent. Over time, lint can build up enough to actually clog your dryer vent. This can greatly lower the drying efficiency of your clothes dryer, raising your energy costs. Clogged dryer vents can also be hazardous, with one of the most severe possibilities being having toxic carbon monoxide gas leak into your home, instead of venting outside. Furthermore, since warm air isn’t able to leave your dryer, it can easily become overheated, starting a lint or dryer fire.

Chimneys

Your chimney can accumulate a fair amount of creosote over the winter. Creosote is formed when non-combusted gases produced from burning wood condensate on chimney walls, creating a blackish tar. This tar is called creosote. As more and more creosote accumulates, it can start to affect your chimney’s airflow. This can cause poor burning fires and may lead to smoke entering your home. Creosote is also combustible and could start a dangerous chimney fire that is almost impossible to put out.

Hire a CSIA-certified chimney sweep

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests having your chimney and vents inspected and cleaned by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep annually. Only a CSIA-certified chimney and vent technician has the knowledge and experience to properly inspect and clean your chimney and dryer vents. At Old Smokey’s, we require that all of our technicians be CSIA certified. This is because we know that the safety of your family is on the line, and we want our technicians to have the best training possible.

Spring is just around the corner and now is a great time to have your chimney and dryer vents inspected by a CSIA-certified chimney technician. Let us help you with your spring cleaning! If you are ready for an appointment, please call Old Smokey’s at 260-424-0009 or schedule an appointment online today!

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