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Helpful Tips on Preventing Chimney Fires

When was the last time that you lit a fire and you heard a loud popping noise come of your chimney? Chimney fires are a lot more common than you think and as many as 25,000 chimney fires happen each year causing property damages that amount to120 million dollars.

Aside from the property damages, thousands of people are injured or killed by chimney fires each year. One of the main reasons that the fires spread to the rest of the house is because of creosote.  Creosote is a dark tar like substance that builds up in your chimney after you burn a fire. When you have your annual chimney inspection, your chimney sweep will remove it. Creosote can easily catch on fire, becoming the root cause of the chimney fires.

While most chimney fires emit a sound that sounds like a bomb has gone off, chimney fires aren’t always easy to identify. There are basically two types of chimney fires that are very different from each other. One type of chimney fire is the loud of the two or the free burning one chimney fire In some cases the noise is accompanied by intense flames and smoke may lap out of your chimney top. This quieter one is a slow burning chimney fire which is as or even more dangerous. Many home owners have mentioned after they had a chimney fire that they didn’t even know it took place. The reason that they are so harmful is that although they remain undetected but they are burning slowly and at high temperatures.

What should you do if a chimney fire happens in your home? If you don’t already have an evacuation plan in place, then it’s time that you create one. Ensure that everybody know the locations of the closest exits and where to meet after they have evacuated the premises. Next thing to do is call the fire department or 911. Although there are some measures that you can take if it isn’t too dangerous, like closing the damper and hosing down the roof we advise against it. It’s best to leave it to professionals.

Many people think that once the fire is put out there isn’t any cause for concern but unless it’s been inspected by a chimney professional to identify and repair the cause, it will occur again. In order to prevent a chimney fire it’s important is to have a clean burning fire. The dryness of the wood that you burn in your fireplace makes a big difference. Only wood that is completely dry should be burned. You can usually tell by the hollow sound when two pieces are banged against each other. It usually takes about 6 months for wood to be ready to burn.

Another important point is the materials that you use to start your fire. Clean newspaper or dry kindling works best and never use gasoline or kerosene which are liquids that can be hard to control. And please don’t throw paper, plastic, cardboard or giftwrap into your fireplace. Flying embers can latch onto a curtain or a couch igniting a blaze. Large logs are much better to burn rather than many smaller logs. Dense hardwoods like maple, oak, birch and cherry are some of the better woods for heating. Different species of wood are available in different areas, so the best firewood will vary by location.

The main factor that determines the extent of damage to the chimney and or the structure is the material that the chimney is made of. Masonry chimneys are extremely vulnerable to chimney fires. The intense heat may cause the walls to crack and the tile or clay liner pieces may break or even collapse from the high heat. In many cases the initial fire causes damage to the liner which cracks or the mortar will be displaced. The second chimney fire blazes through the pathway causing materials that are close such as the roof to ignite.

Factory built prefabricated chimneys are built to be able to better cope with high temperatures. However, the high temperatures can damage the metal liner and must be completely replaced before the chimney is used again. While chimney fires are dangerous, they can be avoided.  Using the right materials, and making sure that your chimney is in working order a chimney fire can still occur. Annual chimney inspections and cleanings from a certified chimney professional are another critical part of home maintenance.

 

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