In the United States alone Chimney Fires occur at an alarming rate, over 26,000 chimney fires account for over 125 million dollars in damage to residential property every year. Countless Injuries and even a few deaths result in every year from dangerous chimney fires that spread to the structure of the home.
Damaged chimney liners or structural problems inside your chimney can allow high temperatures, sparks, and embers to escape to combustible areas in walls, roofs, or attics. The most common cause of chimney fires is creosote that has built up inside your chimney from burning fires. Creosote is made up of unburned flue gasses that cool and cling to the sides of your chimney.
Chimney Fire, the Unwanted Fire
Along with the soft crackling of the wood, your fire should only produce pleasant sounds, to be enjoyed with the light and the heat and maybe a bottle of wine. Instead, a chimney fire sounds more like a freight train barreling toward your house at 100 miles an hour, with no brakes. While this raging noise is coming from your chimney walls, it means you have a powerful chimney fire on your hands, or an airplane is soon to impact your home, which is probably a lot less likely. Although not every chimney fire is as easy to detect, you can still have a pretty powerful chimney fire and may never know it, some signs to look for would be a charred cap, chimney liner damage, or fly ash. Fly ash is the residue left behind from creosote after all of the accelerants have burned off.
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Learn how to Identify a Chimney Fire
There are two different types of chimney fires that are quite easy to tell apart, but both have the ability to cause substantial damage to your chimney and possibly your home. Both types of these chimney fires can absolutely be avoided with annual chimney inspections and sweeps. Call The Chimney Company today and schedule yours!
- Free Burning – These are the kinds of chimney fires that sound like you have your own freight train or roaring airplane in your chimney. The blaze is loud and unmistakable, it will often wake you up had you been sleeping. Usually accompanying the sounds are dramatic flames or billowing smoke that may lap out of your chimney top.
- Slow Burning – This is a quieter version of a chimney fire but it is no less dangerous. You may very well not even know it has taken place. These sometimes undetectable fires burn slowly and at high temperatures that can cause more than just structural damage to your chimney, they can easily catch flammable parts of your home on fire as well.
What to do if you think you may have had a chimney fire.
As with pretty much any other type of fire, the first step that should always be taken is to get everyone out of harm’s way and to call the fire department, these fires should be put out professionally. The danger with chimney fires, even after they have been put out, is that if it happened once, it will almost always happen again if no preventative measures are taken.
For this reason, after one of these fires has taken place, it is important to call a certified chimney professional like The Chimney Company right away to determine the cause of the fire. Besides removing the reason for the fire after one has raged inside your chimney walls, prevention is also very important.
The key to preventing a chimney fire is to have a clean burning fire.
The Best Ways to Prevent a Chimney Fire
- Only burn seasoned or dried-out wood – Wood that is completely dry will sound hollow when hit against another piece of wood, it will be dark in color and may have cracks in the ends. It takes about 12 months for wood to be ready to burn. If you have a moisture meter, it should be between 15 and 25
- Start fires with clean newspaper or dry kindling – Gasoline or kerosene should never be used to start a fire.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, or your Christmas tree.
- Burn large logs, rather than many smaller logs when possible.
- Get regular chimney inspections and cleanings to remove the excess creosote from the chimney walls and ensure safe burning.
How much damage can a chimney fire cause?
There are a couple of types of chimneys, each is affected differently and the strength of the fire could determine how much damage is done to the chimney.
- Masonry Chimneys – A chimney fire will cause severe damage to the structure of the chimney. The walls may crack and the tile or clay liner pieces may break or even collapse from the high heat and pressure. A chimney fire may reach 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and that is enough heat to even melt most metals. Oftentimes the first chimney fire will do some type of damage to the structure, and the liner will crack or the mortar will be displaced. When that issue is not addressed, the second chimney fire will utilize the pathway created by the first fire and could very well make nearby flammable materials of the home go up into flames. The heat of a chimney fire can often be hot enough to even catch the roof or other wood around the chimney on fire even without first damaging the structure.
- Prefabricated Chimneys – For these factory-built, metal chimneys, the structure must pass regulated guidelines and stand up to high temperatures, this being said, those temperatures are not close to 2000 degrees. The metal liner of prefabricated chimneys can collapse or be distorted by high temperatures, it may even change its chemical makeup. If this happens to this type of chimney, it is very important that the liner is completely replaced before the chimney is used again make sure to call The Chimney Company to get it inspected today.
- Wood Stoves and inserts- One may think that both wood stoves and inserts may require less maintenance than would a traditional chimney. In some cases that is true, but chimney fires can still occur if you let too much creosote build up in your chimney flue. It is important to get them cleaned and serviced yearly to protect your investment.
Chimney fires are a very dangerous problem to experience firsthand, but the good news is that they are also entirely preventable. While using the correct fuel is important, a chimney fire can still occur even with these precautionary measures in place.
This is why annual chimney inspections and cleanings are another critical part of home maintenance. Don’t wait until it’s too late, take precautions now to make sure you have a clean, safe chimney system.