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Chimney Fires Can Be Prevented

WETT Certified Chimney Sweep

Chimney Fires happen frequently across North America, causing millions of dollars in damage to property, injury and death.  But do they need to occur and can they be prevented?   Well lets look at the fuel the chimney fire uses, which is creosote.  Creosote is a by-product of poorly burned wood for the most part, why do I say poorly burned?  Well, many certified stoves, if used properly, will generate very little creosote.  Having said that it only takes a couple of millimeters of coating on chimney to cause a chimney fire.

A Fire in Your Chimney – What Happens.

What happens during a Chimney Fire?  Well it is simply physics.  Once the heat has ignited the fuel, creosote, it needs oxygen to complete the fire triangle. Well it has some oxygen intermingled with the flue gases all the time.  But due again to physics it gets a little help.  As the chimney temperatures heat up, which during a chimney fire they do, the draft or airflow up the chimney increases.  As the air flow up the chimney increases the fire gets more oxygen and is essentially being fanned by the air flow past it, this in a serious chimney fire can begin to cause a roar in the chimney.  Yes a roar, much like a freight train would make passing in very close proximity!   When this happens you have a powerful and serious chimney fire on your hands.  But not all Chimney Fires make such a loud roar, and in fact the majority of them actually are not even detected by the home owner.

Lets Identify Chimney Fires.

There are essentially two types of Chimney Fires – one that is easy to detect and the other that is not.  However, both have the ability to cause substantial damage to your chimney and even to your home.

The First Is The Free Burning Chimney Fire – This is the one I mentioned above sounds like a freight train.  The Chimney Fire is loud and unmistakable, stove pipes may glow red and there may be dramatic flames or billowing black smoke flowing out of the top of your chimney.  Friends and neighbours passing by may see this and be alerted to the danger, calling the fire department.

The Second Is The Slow Burning Chimney Fire – While no less dangerous, this one is a much quieter version of a chimney fire.  This one happens more frequently with the newer Certified Wood Stoves due to lack of unrestricted airflow, and these tend to burn much more slowly and at very high temperatures.  These can still cause serious structural damage to your chimney and can very easily set combustible material within your home afire.  This is in part why defects in chimneys are so important to detect and repair, more on that later.   When cleaning the chimney the evidence of a Chimney Fire is VERY CLEAR and REAL!

What to do if a chimney fire happens at your residence.

The first things are to get family outside FAST and to call the fire department at 911.  If you can safely get close to the stove, which often you can if detected early enough, shut down the air supply as much as possible to do safely.  Close any dampers on the chimney or any other air sources to which you can get access.  Ensure all doors and fire grates on stove are firmly closed.  Then leave the home.  Once outside if you can spray the roof with the garden hose until the fire department arrives.  The closing of air will essentially slowly smother the fire and spraying water on the roof will help to prevent spreading of the fire.   Then close the glass doors or any other fire grate and leave the home. Once outside, take a garden hose and spray water on the roof around the chimney to prevent the roof from catching on fire. Once the fire is out, you will need to monitor wall temperature for a period of time, several hours in fact, to ensure that the heat from the chimney has not ignited combustible materials which have been slowly smouldering.  Note that some of the steps needed are different with each chimney system and vary depending upon construction and materials.

It should also be noted that many chimney fires occur in homes and chimneys where they have already happened!  Why, well if nothing changes the conditions to create a fire will return.

A critical step in prevention of Chimney Fires is a clean, well maintained system and to use good wood and have a well burning fire.

What Are The Best Ways To Prevent A Chimney Fire

Burn well seasoned wood.  It takes about 6 months for wood to be ready to burn.

Start your fires with clean newspaper or dry kindling.

Never use gasoline, kerosene, bbq lighter or other fuels to start a fire.

Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, magazines or construction wood/material.

Burn medium sized logs or larger logs versus several smaller sticks when possible.

Get regular chimney inspections and sweeping/cleaning by a Certified Chimney Professional – don’t attempt to save a few dollars here by having anybody do this that is not properly trained and certified for the job.  In the Midland and Penetanguishene look for a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep or WETT Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep.  Call today to schedule a sweep and inspection.

What causes the fire in the first place?

Creosote build-up is the main cause of chimney fires. The creosote comes from particles that were not fully burned during the fire and when the temperatures in the chimney lowered, they attached to the chimney walls forming the creosote. In fact, when the temperatures within the chimney are below 250 degrees Fahrenheit, the substance in the smoke will condense and stick to the walls. When the temperature drops below 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the substance again changes form, this time to a dark, sticky substance. This dark sticky and sometimes flaky material can easily catch on fire, and thus is the root cause of the chimney fires.

Just How Much Damage Could A Chimney Fire Cause?

Well it depends to a large degree on the type of chimney and how hot and furious the fire becomes.  You can not predict the second so you need to focus on the first.

We all like masonry chimneys.  The do look nice.  But a Chimney Fire can cause serious and severe damage to the structure of a masonry chimney.. read that as expensive.  And if the house did not burn the first time, if a second fire were to occur it could be serious enough to take the house with it!  Keep in mind that a serious Chimney Fire can reach temperatures of 1100C, which is hot enough to melt even some metals.  The liner will often crack, mortar fall out and even bricks can crack and break.  The heat may even cause the surround wooden structures to ignite, especially in older masonry chimneys where the structure may not be as good and clearances to combustibles up to present building codes.  Masonry chimneys with liners, especially insulated liners can often far better during a Chimney Fire than an unlined one.

Factory Built Chimneys – these are the metal chimneys you see these Chimneys have been built and tested to withstand extreme temperatures.  Even at that the most serious Chimney Fires can push these to extremes and they are not immune to damage from Chimney Fires, the high temperatures can cause the metal liner of prefabricated chimneys to collapse or be distorted. If this were to occur the chimney or sections of it must be replaced.

Keep in mind that Chimney Fires are very dangerous, but the almost always are preventable. When you need help call a Certified Chimney Sweep!

Do not wait until it is too late, schedule you Chimney Sweep in Midland or Penetanguishene area today!

RAW Chimney Sweep and Inspection proudly serves Angus, Orillia, Bala, Barrie, Beaverton, Beckwith Island, Bluewater, Borden, Bracebridge, Brechin, Brentwood, Burnt Island, Christian Island, Coldwater, Cognashene , Collingwood, Cookstown, Deer Island, Egbert, Elmvale, Everett, Essa, Fesserton, Foots Bay, Georgian Bay Township, Giants Tomb Island, Gilford, Glencairn, Gravenhurst, Hillsdale, Honey Harbour, Hope Island, Innisfil, Lafontaine, Lefroy, Little Beausoleil Island, Mactier, Mermaid Island, Midhurst, Midland, Minesing, Moon River, Moonstone, Muskoka, Muskoka Lakes, New Lowell, Orillia, Oro, Oro-Medonte, Orr Lake, Parry Sound, Penetanguishene, Port Carling, Port McNicoll, Port Severn, Portage Island, Roberts Island, Sawlog Bay, Severn Bridge, Severn Falls, Severn Township, Shanty Bay, Stayner, Stroud, Tay, Tiny, Tiny Beach, Thunder Beach, Victoria Harbour, Vasey, Vaughan, Wasaga Beach, Washago, Waubaushene, Waverley, Webber Island, West Gwillimbury, Woods Bay, Wyebridge, Wyevale and surrounding areas.

RAW Chimney Sweep has  a WETT Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep and WETT Certified Comprehensive Inspector help you.