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How to handle a chimney fire

Homeowners hope they never have to deal with a fire, but it’s something every homeowner should be prepared for. If your home has a fireplace or heating stove, you also should be prepared to deal with a chimney fire.

Recognizing the signs of a chimney fire

How to handle a chimney fire - Suffolk County NY - Chief ChimneyFirst, you should know the signs of a chimney fire. Oftentimes, chimney fires are extremely dramatic and obvious. Flames and sparks shoots out the top of the chimney, dense smoke billows out, and people inside the home hear a roaring noise like a low-flying plane. Other times, however, chimney fires are far more subtle. Some smoke may begin entering the house, or there may be a popping or “raining” sound from inside the chimney.

Responding to a chimney fire

If you believe you are experiencing a chimney fire, your first priority should be to get everyone out of the home safely. While most metal chimney are made to withstand a chimney fire, there is a risk that the fire could escape and ignite your home’s structure. Because of that risk, you should immediately call the fire department. If you feel safe doing so, you can close the doors to the fireplace, and turn off any fans or blowers. Once outside, you can spray water on your roof to prevent any sparks coming from the chimney from igniting your roof.

Following a chimney fire, your chimney should be inspected by a certified chimney sweep before you attempt to burn another fire. A sweep will clean the chimney and inspect the structure. While metal flues can withstand temperatures up to 2,000 degree, they still may be damaged by a fire. The extreme temperatures of a chimney fire can cause major damage to a masonry chimney. Mortar can melt and bricks can crack, compromising the chimney structure.

Preventing a chimney fire

As the saying goes, “Clean chimneys don’t catch fire.” The majority of chimney fires are caused by a buildup of creosote, which is extremely flammable. The best way to protect your home from a chimney fire is to have your chimney swept by a certified chimney sweep at least once a year, and potentially more frequently if you rely on a woodstove as a main source of heat. Your chimney sweep will remove all creosote buildup from your flue, and will look for any signs of chimney damage or weakness.

Creosote forms when smoke cools near the top of your flue, causing condensation. Burning properly seasoned hardwood that is the right size for your fireplace can slow the buildup of creosote in your fireplace. Also, make sure you always burn fires with your damper fully open, and if you have an open-hearth fireplace, never close the fireplace doors when a fire is burning. Having a partially closed damper or closed fireplace doors interrupts the draft of smoke out of your chimney, causing smoke to linger longer and encouraging creosote buildup.

If you’re overdue for a chimney sweeping, or if you’re concerned that your chimney has experienced a fire, call the experts at Chief Chimney Services. We can help keep your home and family safe from the risk of a chimney fire.

By John Pilger on December 8th, 2015 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

What Is Creosote?

What Is Creosote? The term creosote in relation to fireplaces and chimney occurs when the by-products of wood are not totally burned off and the residue travels in the smoke as a vapor. When it is cooled to a liquid it coats whatever it encounters. The wood-tar substance is a blackish brown sticky gooey oil mixture that builds up on the interior surfaces of your chimney and fireplace. It is extremely combustible. Due to the hazardous nature of creosote and its offensive odor, Chief Chimney Services takes special care to remove it and protect homeowners from fire and toxic gas risks associated with creosote.

The Hearth.com website explains, “Creosote buildup is pretty sneaky. You may not notice it at first but it tends to feed on itself. As it builds up, it restricts the flow in the chimney and/or stove pipes. This slows the smoke on its way out, allowing more time for it to cool and for the creosote to condense and deposit on itself thus further restricting the flow.”.

creosote-image-suffolk-ny-chief-chimney-services

The fire hazard occurs when it is ignited by a hot fire. Pieces of the built up creosote can also become loose and flake and travel upwards to your roof, or down your chimney into your fireplace and into your home. No matter the direction, the result of burning creosote is no good. A traveling piece of burning creosote can bring on a dangerous and expansive fire.

The inspectapedia website lists these considerations about creosote build up:

  • The temperature of the chimney. Consider long low smoldering fires make more creosote that hotter roaring fires
  • The wood to sap ratio of the wood you burn, the greener the wood the more moisture and the more creosote
  • The moisture content of the wood, wet wood burns more slowly and produces more creosote
  • The chimney size, height, location, and construction materials also influence the buildup of creosote.

There are important things for homeowners to understand about creosote that you need to know if you are even considering to attempt to remove creosote buildup yourself. First, without the professional equipment and cameras a chimney professional uses, you are not able to view the entire length of your chimney and therefore you may not be aware of the buildup that occurs out of sight which still puts you at risk. There are two other considerations as well as access. Dislodging the creosote is extremely dangerous for several reasons. First, as you chip away at the creosote you may do damage to the underlying chimney structure. Worse you will be breathing the extremely toxic materials even if you wear a mask. Worst yet, if you dislodge the creosote it may travel in the smoke and downdrafts of future fires and ignite whatever it lands upon.

Creosote inspection and removal is critical to the safety and security of your home and best done by a technician certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. CSIA certified technicians know the proper methods, cleaning agent, and tools to keep your chimney unblocked. Chief Chimney Services, Inc.wants to be your chimney professional. Contact us today!