Monday, November 13, 2017

Signs of a Chimney Fire Everyone Should Know

By Marge Padgitt
HearthMasters, Inc.  

Chimney fires are more common than most people realize. Most chimney fires occur without the

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 or the Chimney Safety Institute of America site at 

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.  

      Marge Padgitt is the CEO of HearthMasters, Inc. dba Padgitt Chimney & Fireplace in Independence, Missouri. Visit or for more information. Contact Marge at