If you don’t give much thought on the condition of your chimney before lighting fires to warm you up during the chilly season, you and your home could be in danger. When the winter season gets super cold, there tends to be a sharp increase in chimney fires. So what causes a chimney fire? How do I know if I have one? Well the following text will give you helpful tips on how to identify and prevent any future chimney fires.
So what causes a chimney fire?
A dirty, unkempt chimney leads to chimney fires. Which can lead to damaging structures, destroying homes and even injuring or killing people. Chimney fires are usually caused by the accumulation of creosote in the chimney. Creosote accumulates in the flue over time and is highly flammable. Creosote is especially likely to accumulate when wood is not being burned at the proper temperature. When it accumulates on the walls of your flue, hot flue gasses can ignite it, resulting in a chimney fire. Depending on the condition of your chimney, such a fire can pose a significant threat to the rest of your house. Furthermore the flames from the fire can find their way through cracks in your clay chimney liner or mortar and ignite framing around the chimney.
What are the indications of a chimney fire?
- Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney
- Loud cracking, and popping noises
- An intense hot smell
- Low rumbling
A chimney fire can occur without the homeowner being aware so it is really important to have your chimney inspected regularly by a certified chimney technician. These are the signs that a certified chimney sweep looks for:
- Flaky or Puffy creosote
- Any warped metal seen from the damper, smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
- Cracked or damaged flue tiles
- Cracks found on exterior masonry
- Distorted rain cap
- TV antenna (that may be attached or be near chimney) is heat-damaged
- Some roofing material is damaged from hot creosote
- Smoke escaping through mortar joints from masonry/tile liners
So how do I prevent a chimney fire?
- Have your chimney cleaned at least annually. The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances.
- Allow your firewood to dry for at least a year before burning it, if possible. Burning fresher (or wet) wood can lead to creosote building up and increases your chance of having a chimney fire.
- Do not burn too hot of a fire. The hotter the fire is the greater the chance that the creosote will ignite.
- If you have petroleum or gas heating systems, make sure they have a carbon monoxide near the heat source.
- Should you find yourself near an active chimney fire, please do the following:
- Immediately call 911! Even if the chimney fire is extinguished, hot spots still poses as a serious threat.
- NEVER use water to put out the flames! Direct contact with the hot walls can lead to cracking, which can lead to much bigger problems.