It may come as a surprise to learn that chimney fires happen at an alarming rate in the Unites States. There are more than 26,000 such residential fires each year, with $125 million in damages the result. Injuries are an issue, too, and there are even a few deaths each year, which usually happens when the fire spreads from the chimney to the main structure.
Structural issues inside the chimney and damaged liners are often responsible for letting sparks or embers escape into combustible areas within the walls, attic, or roof. More commonly, though, it is creosote build-up that tends to serve as the catalyst for fires. It is unburned flue gasses that cool inside the chimney that accumulate and create creosote.
The Unwanted Chimney Fire
The sounds from a fire are often very pleasant, as is the light that the flames produce. It’s a different story inside your chimney, as the sounds in there are more akin to a high speed freight train charging towards your home. That is a sure sign that a chimney fire is ablaze, but it isn’t always a sound that can be heard, and there is a chance that it could be raging within the chimney walls without you being aware of what’s going on. Things that you should be on the lookout for are damages to the chimney liner, flying ash, or a charred cap.
Identifying a Chimney Fire
There are basically two types of chimney fire that are easy to tell apart. The one thing that that they have in common is that they can both do some real property damage. Both of these can be avoided if you have ARC Chimney Sweeps of Baton Rouge, LA come out and perform an annual inspection. If you don’t know when your last inspection was performed, call now and make an appointment to have one done. Let’s take a look at both types:
- Free Burning – As mentioned earlier, these are the types of fires that sound as though a freight train is using your chimney as a tunnel. It’s even loud enough to wake you from a deep sleep.The sounds are often accompanied by flames or billowing smoke coming out of your chimney top.
- Slow Burning – Not as loud, but definitely just as dangerous. These types of fires can be very tough to detect, and their slow burn is often done at high temperatures that can deliver some real structural damage to your chimney. These types of fires also have a tendency to spark flammable areas of your home.
What To Do If You Believe You Had a Chimney Fire
Like any type of dangerous situation, your first step should be to ensure that everyone is out of harm’s way before calling the fire department. It is professionals only who should deal with fires. One thing to remember is that even after being extinguished, chimney fires can and will happen again if no preventative measures are taken.
Once the fire is extinguished, you next step should be to call in the chimney sweep professionals at ARC Chimney Sweeps of Baton Rouge, LA. We can quickly assess the cause of the fire and make sure that the necessary repairs and cleanings processes are completed to make sure that it does not happen again.
Cleaning burning fire is the key to chimney fire prevention.
How to Prevent a Chimney Fire
- Only dried out or seasoned wood should be burned. To test if wood is completely dried out, hit it against another piece and listen for a hollow sound. Another sign is that the wood may be darker and cracked on the ends. Generally speaking, it takes about a year for wood to fully dry. A moisture meter reading of between 15 and 25 % is what you should be looking for.
- Use dry kindling or clean newspaper to start the fire. Avoid gasoline and kerosene at all costs.
- NEVER burn wrapping paper, cardboard, or your old Christmas tree.
- If possible, burn larger logs as opposed to smaller ones.
- Have your chimney cleaned and inspected annually, as this will prevent damage and creosote build-up from becoming an issue.
What Type of Damage Can a Chimney Fire Cause?
It really all depends on the type of chimney that you have, Let’s take a look at the different types, and the damage that a fire might cause.
- Masonry Chimneys – The structure of these chimneys will be seriously damaged in a fire. You can expect cracks to appear in the wall, as well as the potential of breaks in the liner, with a collapse possible. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to go as high as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit in a chimney fire, which is enough heat to melt the majority of metals. The initial fire in the chimney will possibly open up cracks that then serve as pathways for future fires. When that happens, flammable materials become exposed, and serious damage is delivered. This is why it’s so important to get the issue resolved after the first fire.
- Prefabricated Chimneys – These metal chimneys are factory built, and have to pass very strict guidelines, including the ability to withstand high temperatures. The temperatures in question are not anywhere near 2000 degrees, which means that collapse and distortion of the metal can occur when high heat is introduced. When that happens, you will need to have the liner completely replaced, which is a job that can be done by ARC Chimney Sweeps of Baton Rouge, LA.
It goes without saying that chimney fires are incredibly dangerous, but they are also relatively easy to prevent. Even when regularly using the correct fuel, there is still a chance that fires can occur. This is why it is so important to have regular chimney cleanings and inspections. Do not put this off until it’s too late, and have an inspection done today.
You can book an appointment by calling ARC Chimney Sweeps of Baton Rouge, LA any time.