When it comes to your chimney and fireplace, staying alert to potential threats could save your family from danger. There is no doubt that a cozy fire can make an evening better, but only if your system is well-maintained and meets the minimum standards required for safe operation. One dangerous event those with wood-burning units could face is a chimney fire. Learn more about chimney fires, what causes them, and how to prevent them by reading below.

What Causes Chimney Fires?The truth behind chimney fires

The biggest reason chimney fires occur is excessive creosote deposits in your chimney caused by irregular cleaning and inspection, wet wood, and poor burn habits. Creosote forms as fires burn as a natural part of the combustion cycle and is highly flammable More creosote increases your chances of experiencing an issue beyond a chimney fire. This is why investing in regular inspection and sweeping is so important! Chimney fires can burn in excess of 2100-degrees F and ⅛” of buildup is enough to sustain a chimney fire for up to 20 minutes. If there is thicker creosote buildup these fires can last much longer and pose a greater risk of damaging, or compromising the chimney liner. If this liner is compromised and enough fuel still remains the fire can overheat nearby combustibles and spread into the home. A ¼” of buildup can expand up to 2″ when burned. With extremely thick buildup chimneys fires sometimes put themselves out when the creosote expands from all directions and plugs the flue. If you’ve ever had a chimney fire, don’t start burning again until you’ve had your system inspected by those who at a minimum are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). No matter what form it takes, or how much of it exists in your system, creosote is dangerous. Be sure to burn only dry seasoned wood in your fireplace to help decrease the rate at which creosote forms. It is also important to have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least annually, or more often if burning it as a main source of heat, in order to maintain a clean system, good airflow and proper draft. Both of these practices will go a long way when it comes to minimizing creosote accumulation.

Signs Of A Chimney Fire

So, how can you tell if a chimney fire has occurred? Well, you might assume it would be this loud, obvious event. This is sometimes the case but  they often occur quietly. Chances are you wont even know if you had one. This means that, unbeknownst to you, you could be putting your home at risk every time you light a fire! Because of this it is important to stay aware of the more common signs that a chimney fire has occurred. For example, the creosote in your chimney may look puffy or honeycombed, or the metal components throughout your chimney and fireplace may appear warped, as if exposed to excessive heat. If you go outside and see wisps of a black paper-like wasp nest all over your house or lawn that is a sign that a chimney fire has occurred. Your flue tiles may be cracked or there could be gaps in between mortar joints from the expansion and contraction associated with the sudden increase in temperature. Signs of fire damage throughout your system can be clear indicators that a chimney fire has occurred. Some are visible to the naked eye from above or below while others are not visible except with professional video inspection equipment designed to verify whether chimney flues are continuous and still capable of containing the byproducts of combustion, and a chimney fire should one occur. Because it can be hard for homeowners to notice some of these signs, it’s important to have your system looked at regularly by a CSIA certified expert possessing the proper tools and experience. The experts at The Chimney Doctor can determine whether any damage has occurred, and the appropriate measures to take. Count on us for it all! We are more than qualified to help you out every step of the way.

Avoiding A Chimney Fire

The best case scenario would be to avoid chimney fires altogether. The most effective way to do this is to invest in regular inspections and sweepings. The Chimney Safety Institute of American (CSIA) recommends scheduling inspections at least annually. This allows us to take note of any changes that occur within your system inspection to inspection. Should excess creosote be present, we can perform a thorough sweeping, verify whether further repairs or chemical creosote removal is necessary, and in the end minimize your risks significantly. It is easier to pay for regular inspections and necessary repairs than it is to replace your home and everything in it. Our team promises to do our best to get you the facts you need to make an informed decision for the safety of your family. We are ready, qualified, and excited to help provide you peace of mind. Give us a call to to schedule an inspection with one of our CSIA Certified staff today!