Preventing Chimney Fires | Get the Whole Story for your home. Your safety is paramount to Anderson’s Masonry Hearth and Home.
Your chimney is designed to transport dangerous gases from your fireplace or wood stove out of your home. Chimneys need special care to operate correctly. Unclean chimneys can cause chimney fires, which can devastate homes and injure or kill people. The Chimney Safety Institute of America is a great resource for prevention and safety information regarding your chimney.
Chimney Fires and Creosote
A chimneys job is to expel the substances produced when wood burns; such as water vapor, smoke, non-burned wood particles, hydrocarbon, minerals and etc. As these by-products exit the fireplace or wood stove, and flow up into the comparatively colder chimney, condensation take place. This creates creosote, which is a residue that clings to the inside walls of the chimney.
Creosote is dark colored in appearance. This substance can appear as shiny and hard, tar like, runny and sticky or even flaky. Many times, all of the forms of creosote will take place in a chimney system. Creosote is extremely combustible. The takeaway: if creosote builds up – and the inside flue temperature is hot enough – the consequence could be a chimney fire.
Causes of Creosote:
Burning unseasoned wood- This creates creosote because so much energy is used in the beginning to drive off water in the logs, that it results in cooler smoke than seasoned wood.
Colder than normal chimney temperatures
Constrained air supply: This may occur if the damper is not opened wide enough or by closing the glass doors. The lack of air causes the heated smoke to slowly rise up the chimney instead of rapidly, which likely causes more creosote buildup.
Overloading the firebox in wood stoves
Signs of a Chimney Fire
Loud popping noise
A strong hot smell
Low reverberating sound similar to a train
Flames and smoke from top of chimney
Subtle Signs of a Chimney Fire
Slow burning chimney fires don’t get enough fuel to be loud or visible.
The temperatures they reach are extremely high and cause just as much damage as a dramatic fast burning chimney fire.
Prevention and Maintenance
Chimney fires are completely preventable, with proper chimney system care. Annual inspection and cleaning is the best prevention of chimney fires.