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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!