Chimney fires are common, especially during the summer. Most people wonder if these fires are dangerous and if they can pose a risk for people living in the house.
Those inside the residence risk being hurt or killed when chimney fires quickly spread to other parts of the house. They may also seriously harm the chimney itself, in addition to the preceding.
What To Do When Your Chimney Is On Fire?
Get everyone out of the house and away from it safely if there is an active chimney fire before dialing 911. A chimney fire can quickly spread to other parts of the house; therefore, you need to call the fire service immediately.
A fire company’s response time typically takes five minutes, while it might take up to fifteen minutes in remote locations. A lot can happen in that period when there is a fire, so it is best to call 911 as quickly as possible.
Do You Have A Chimney Fire Risk?
Although chimneys are used to vent smoke from fireplaces, they have occasionally been known to start fires. But there’s no need to freak out. Once you understand how your chimney functions, you’ll realize that a chimney fire is practically unavoidable with proper care. These are some things to note if you have a chimney and fire so that your chimney never puts you in danger.
Problems Are Dirty Chimneys
For a good reason, becoming a chimney sweep was reasonably common. As chilly outside air meets hot smoke and minute wooden particles in a chimney, the chimney can become exceedingly unclean. Condensation takes place, and as a result, a chemical called creosote accumulates.
Creosote can be sticky, flaky, or even tar-like and is typically a dark color. Always use the appropriate kind of wood in your fireplace, and make sure there are no obstructions, to reduce the quantity of creosote produced. Because creosote is exceptionally combustible, even a wayward ember from your fireplace could start a chimney fire.
Types Of Fires That Are Lit
Either explosive or slow-burning fires are frequently produced by creosote. Both are equally lethal but relatively simple to spot as long as a fire is never left blazing when no one is home. Unnaturally loud cracking sounds, more smoke than usual, and a strong odor are warning signs that an enormous chimney fire will happen. This suggests that a hugely flammable fire may be on the horizon.
Creosote can start small, undetectable, slow-burning flames in addition to dangerous, explosive chimney fires. Even though they can seem less hazardous, these can seriously compromise the structural stability of your chimney, eventually leading to its collapse.
The best way to prevent these fires is to have a professional clean your chimney, just as you can do to completely prevent chimney fires.
How Can I Prevent Chimney Fire?
If you follow these preventative suggestions, the sturdy column over your fireplace or wood stove should keep directing smoke and other byproducts outside of your house, allowing you and your family to safely enjoy cuddling up in front of the flames. The six most effective methods you can take to avoid chimney fires are explained in the following paragraphs.
1. Reduce Creosote Buildup
Creosote is the principal cause of fireplace fires. Byproducts of a fire (fumes, mist, and unburned wood) condense as they flow from the hot fireplace or wood burner into the cold chimney, coating chimney walls with this highly explosive, dark brown substance. Creosote can burst into flames if the flue of the chimney (the area within the chimney) reaches a high enough temperature and has a sufficiently thick accumulation of creosote.
You should only burn seasoned wood chips that have dried for at least six months and have no over 20 percent moisture levels if you want to reduce creosote buildup. You can quickly test this with a wood moisture meter that you can order online or at local shops for $30 and up, like this General Tools alternative on Amazon. Likewise, to maintain proper circulation while a fire is present, always remember to keep the damper open.
And suppose the flue liner in your chimney isn’t already insulated. In that case, it’s advised that you either wrap it in a heat-resistant insulation sheet or fill the area between the liner and flue with an insulation mixture like vermiculite. A padded flue liner will keep flue temperatures from dropping too low, which could cause fire byproducts to condense and create creosote.
2. Arrange For A Yearly Chimney Inspection
Having your chimney or woodstove, fireplace, and venting system inspected by a Chimney Safety Institute of America-certified chimney clean once a year is essential because many flaws that trigger chimney fires, such as a damaged flue liner, aren’t apparent to the untrained eye. This expert will let you know about any impairment and repair it if you’d like. They’ll also eliminate any obstructions like bird nests, soot, and creosote.
3. When The Buildup Exists, Clean Your Chimney
It’s time for cleaning if you rub your finger against a chimney wall and discover an eighth of an inch of buildup. It often entails sweeping the chimney’s outside and the firebox, smoke shelf, smoke chamber above the firebox, and flue liner. A professional chimney cleaning costs range from $100 to $350. However, DIYers on a tight budget who are ready to climb a ladder can also clean their chimneys themselves with a broad chimney brush.
4. Put A Chimney Cover On
When loose embers from a fire touch leaves and animal nests inside a flue, the result might be a chimney fire that spreads swiftly. A chimney cap on the crown will keep out dirt and animals for the outside flue entrance. The cap will also stop “back puffing” when smoke from fire escapes and re-enters the chimney before entering the house.
Additionally, caps prevent corrosive rainfall from entering and damaging the chimney. Galvanized metal caps can be purchased for as little as $50 or as much as $500. While some homeowners choose to install a chimney cover themselves, doing so may void the guarantee; hiring a professional may be more advantageous.
5. Use Safe Fire Starters
Always stick to the most delicate fire starters when choosing fuel, kindling, and tinder. You should only burn well-seasoned hardwood or logs that have received CSIA approval in your fireplace or wood burner. You should never use kerosene and gasoline to start a fire since they are very explosive and flammable and can do so fast. Additionally, avoid burning coal unless you have a wood stove that burns coal.
Doing so can significantly raise the flue’s temperature and increase the possibility of a chimney fire. Commit to dried sticks or branches for kindling. A wrong choice is a cloth since it burns with a lot of smoke. Use old newspaper that has been torn or crumpled or pine cones as tinder.
Never use glossy paper, such as pages from magazines or cardboard, as fuel because they both contain compounds that, when burned, can release poisons into the chimney and the house.
6. Use Sanitized Burning Methods
Low-temperature, slow-burning fires, especially those left to smolder all night, emit more smoke and leave more flammable material unburned behind. There is a bigger chance of chimney fires when that solidifies onto the chimney walls to form creosote. Conversely, because hot, rapidly burning fires leave behind significantly fewer fumes, vapor, and unburned wood, almost no creosote accumulates.
The top-down burn approach is the most effective for creating clean fires: Large logs should be arranged vertically at the bottom of a fireplace or wood stove, with the depths of the logs facing you. Kindling should be placed in four to five horizontal layers, followed by fuel and light.
Also, ensure the fire is out before turning in for the night. Using a fireplace poker, spread the wood and embers out, and then use a fireplace shovel to cover them with the ash sitting at the bottom of the fireplace. The sodium bicarbonate will put out any lingering embers. Next, cover the cooled wood and embers entirely with it.
Shovel the ashes into a metal container once the firebox has cooled for at least three hours or eight. Until you are ready to dispose of them, fill the metal container with water and place it outside the house, away from other flammable objects.
It’s crucial to maintain general fire safety at the forefront of your thoughts throughout the winter months, in addition to the precautions above to assist prevent chimney fires. When feasible, install a fireguard to stop sparks from igniting objects close to your fireplace. Avoid burning domestic rubbish in your fire or stove, as this can be very dangerous.