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Chimmey Fire Prevention
Although having a fireplace is a wonderful way to gain more heat, reduce utility bills, and have the means for creating a homey and even romantic atmosphere, there are also risks of creating fire hazards. The most important thing when having a fireplace is to ensure the safety for you, your family, and your home.

The problem with having a fire in your fireplace is that they burn explosively. That means you might hear a lot of noise, often loud enough for people outside to hear. As the heat intensifies, dense smoke and flames will begin to shoot out from the chimney and low, rumbling sounds that sound like a freight train can be heard. Chimney fires do not get enough air or have enough fuel to be ultra dramatic. Instead, they are slow burning.

However, as the temperatures in the chimney begin to reach higher and higher, the structure of the chimney becomes damaged and other parts of the house that are combustible become a problem. The most common fire hazard is the build up of creosote. What happens is that as you burn fire, the residue that goes up the chimney sticks to the inside and over time, builds up on the inner walls. This black or brown substance is typically flaky and crusty. It can also appear as being tar-like and sticky, or sometimes, hardened and shiny. No matter what its appearance, it is highly combustible.

When not cleaned, it will continue to build up in large quantities that help sustain a hot fire. If there were restricted air supply, temperatures in the chimney that are cooler than normal, or if you were burning green wood, these would all be contributing factors. With air supply, if you burn a fire with closed glass doors or if you fail to open the damper up enough, hot smoke goes up the chimney and the creosote begins to form.

Burning green or unseasoned wood is also a problem in that it requires tremendous amount energy to burn. In fact, so much energy is used that much of it goes just to get rid of moisture or water that is trapped within the wood. The result of this is cool smoke that again, goes up the chimney and adheres to the sides.

The problem with having cool flue temperatures is that condensation from unburned by-products of combustion becomes trapped inside the chimney, also creating creosote. This buildup occurs very fast in the exterior chimney, which would be one that runs through the middle of a home or that is exposed so only the upper portion reaches the flue to the elements. Knowing the common signs of a chimney fire could save your life so we have listed them below for you:
  • Puffy looking creosote that has rainbow colored streaks
  • Metal that is warped on the damper, the connector pipe, smoke chamber, or metal chimney
  • Flue tiles that are cracked, collapsed, or have missing chunks
  • A rain cap that is distorted or discolored
  • Flakes of creosote seen on the ground or roof
  • Roof material that has damage from hot creosote
  • Cracks seen in the exterior portion of the masonry
If you think or know you have a fire in your chimney, you should do the following:
  • Close the glass door of the fireplace, if there is time
  • Close the air inlets if you have a wood burning stove, if there is time
  • Get the family out of the house, followed by pets
  • Call 911
  • Spray the roof and chimney area with the garden hose until the fire department arrives



 
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