By Marge Padgitt
homeowner noticing because the fire often is snuffed out by expanding creosote inside the chimney.
Chimney fires can occur in chimneys that are connected to wood-burning stoves, open wood-burning fireplaces, and fireplaces with gas logs installed. It only takes a spark or heat to ignite creosote.
Fire damage is often found during a routine inspection by a professional chimney sweep. Signs that a chimney fire has occurred are cracked or shattered flue tiles; blown out sections of flue tiles; blown out mortar joints in the flue and smoke chamber; smoke damage to the fireplace face or other areas of the house; expanded and cracked masonry at the facial wall above the fireplace opening, back of the chimney, or top of the chimney; a cement cap that is lifted or broken bond with the top course of bricks; cracks in a cement cap; damaged chimney cover; or damaged stainless steel chimney with warping or buckled seams.
Damages to a masonry chimney or steel chimney can be extensive and very costly to replace, and if the fire escapes the chimney, a house fire can endanger life and property. Avoiding a fire in the first place is the smartest thing to do.
What are the signs that a chimney fire is occurring? During a chimney fire, the following may occur:
· Loud roaring or whooshing sound coming from the chimney
· Freight-train like sound
· Loud cracks or pops (this is the flue tiles breaking)
· Sudden smoke backup into the house
· Flames shoot out the top or sides of the chimney chase
· If not contained inside the chase, a house fire may occur
What to do in case of a chimney fire:
· Throw a chimney fire extinguisher in to the firebox
· Shut off the air supply by closing glass doors or closing the combustion air intake
· Get the family out of the house
· Call the fire department
· Keep watch for at least 48 hours in case fire ignites again in nearby combustible framing
· Call a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to inspect the chimney and provide an evaluation report before further use. Be sure to follow the sweep’s advice regarding any repairs needed. Find a professional chimney sweep at the Midwest Chimney Safety Council site at www.mcsc-net.org or the Chimney Safety Institute of America site at www.csia.org.
How to avoid a chimney fire:
|Wood should be split and stacked at least 6 months before use|
· Have the chimney inspected and swept on a regular basis by a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep- once per year for open fireplaces or twice for wood-burning stoves or inserts.
· Burn only dry cordwood - get a moisture meter and make sure that there is only 15% moisture content in the wood.
· Never burn pine (except hard yellow pine), hedge, railroad ties, wrapping paper, or treated wood.
· Do not depend on a chimney sweeping log to remove creosote and do an annual inspection.
· Use Anti-Creosote-Remover spray on logs each time you burn to reduce creosote buildup.
· Realize that all wood creates creosote and maintenance is necessary to remove flammable creosote.
· Burn hot fires rather than small or smoldering fires. Smoldering fires create a lot of creosote buildup and are the primary reason that chimney fires occur.
· Read the owner’s manual.