How to Prevent a Chimney Fire
Your chimney sweep is dedicated to preventing a chimney fire in your home. Trained technicians inspect your chimney system, making sure it is ready to handle the use cold weather brings. By having your chimney inspected and cleaned on a regular basis you can reduce your risk of a chimney fire.
There are many things you can do to prevent a chimney fire in your home. We suggest a few tips below, and include some information on common problems associated with woodstoves and fireplaces.
Keep the Chimney Clean
Fire of all, chimney fires are fueled by soot or creosote deposits in the chimney. These are byproducts of burning wood. Some of the smoke cools and clings to the flue walls. Over time this residue can “bake” onto the flue surface, accumulating in layers. This residue can ignite due to high temperatures, a spark or high flames that may extend upward too far. There may be a lot of potential fuel in a small package just waiting to be ignited.
A fireplace is built to withstand fire; its walls are thicker than that of a typical chimney. A masonry chimney is usually built with just 4″ thickness of brick beacuse it’s only designed to exhaust the flue gases. Since chimney fires can reach 2000+ degrees F. heat can radiate through the chimney walls and ignite nearby combustibles.
Burn Dry, Seasoned Wood
Burning dry, seasoned wood helps minimize the amount of residue that builds up in the flue. Wood cannot burn completely until the moisture it contains is driven off during combustion. If your wood is green or wet, you won’t feel the heat you want and creosote will build up in your chimney.
Keep your wood covered so it stays dry.
Don’t Overfill Your Fireplace or Woodstove
Stuffing your fireplace or woodstove with too much wood will likely lead you to damp down the fire, which may cause smoldering and inefficient burning.
Don’t Damp Down Your Fireplace or Woodstove to Achieve Long Burns
Some woodstove owners try to achieve overnight burns by closing the damper in their woodstove. This starves the stove for oxygen, which is needed in the proper mix for an efficient burn. Without enough oxygen the fire will generate too much smoke. Closing a fireplace damper before all of the coals and ashes are cooled may result in smoke or carbon monoxide backing into the home.
Alarms & Escape Plan
Working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms give you and your family early warning of those hazards. Keep fire extinguishers throughout your home, especially in the kitchen. Have a fire escape plan and practice it with everyone in the home, especially the children.
Use common sense! Always use your fireplace screen. Many fires and accidents are caused by traveling sparks, pets pushing combustibles into the fireplace, children getting too close, etc.
If children are present make sure you have a child protection screen or gate around your fireplace and/or woodstove. This keeps them at a secure distance. Do not rely on glass doors to protect children from the fire. Glass reaches extremely high temperature, which can cause severe burns. Don’t leave matches, igniters, or firestarters where children or pets can reach them.
Make sure your chimney has a spark arrestor on top to prevent sparks from igniting leaves, roofing material, or sparks traveling to other nearby combustibles.
Store ashes in an approved metal ash bucket iwth a tight fitting lid. Never store hot ashes in or on anything combustible. Dump the ashes only when you are sure they are cool and there’s no wind. Then thoroughly wet down the ashes since they can remain hot for several days.
By following these tips and using common sense you should be ablet o enjoy your wood-fired fireplace or woodstove for years to come.
Your Chimney Sweep
If you have any questions or concerns your trusted sweep is your best resource. Your sweep can advise you of any problems with the chimney systems and suggest appropriate solutions.
Karen Lamansky has been involved with the hearth industry for over 20 years and is the author of “Fireplace Design Ideas” published by Creative Homeowner.
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Paul Bianco is the General Manager of Chimney Savers, a family owned and operated chimney cleaning and repair company servicing Vermont & New Hampshire since 1989. With 12 years of experience in the chimney business, Paul has extensive knowledge in all things chimney.