Simple Ways to Help Prevent a Chimney Fire
Among the considerations for fireplace safety that a homeowner should keep in mind are ways to prevent chimney fires. Contrary to a myth that has endured for generations, there are no benefits to chimney fires that could possibly outweigh the potential hazards they create. Thousands of home fires every year originate from chimney fires. Read on to learn some simple ways to help prevent chimney fires.
Be Aware of Potential Chimney Obstructions
Chimney fires are often associated with blockage caused by creosote. When fireplaces are fueled by wood, a tar-like substance known as creosote is deposited in the chimney flue each time there is a fire. Creosote is highly flammable. Floating embers can easily ignite a chimney fire, particularly when there is a solid layer of creosote in the flue.
If you do not have a chimney cap installed at the top of your flue, debris is likely to end up inside your chimney. Leaves, twigs, small branches, and even birds’ nests could be inside your flue. Flammable debris is another type of chimney obstruction that can result in a chimney fire.
Schedule Annual Chimney Inspections
No one should use a fireplace without confidence about the condition of the chimney. Fire experts are aware of this risky business. Leading fire safety experts agree that annual chimney inspections are vital. This recommendation even applies to unused chimneys.
When it comes to preventing chimney fires, chimney inspections are essential. During inspections, chimney sweep experts evaluate the condition of the chimney flue and make safety recommendations. After chimney fires have occurred, homeowners will usually indicate they were unaware that the chimney flue contained flammable substances.
Schedule Chimney Cleaning
Chimney cleaning is important, especially when the appliance uses wood for fuel. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends scheduling chimney cleaning once there is one-eighth of an inch of creosote buildup inside the flue. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) simply recommends annual chimney cleaning.
The removal of creosote from the chimney involves the use of a professional chimney sweep brush only some of the time. There are three types of creosote buildup. Level 1 can be removed with a chimney brush. Levels 2 and 3 are difficult to remove, and there is a potential of damaging the chimney structure during the process of removal. Professional chimney sweeping supplies and equipment as well as know-how and expertise are required to remove stubborn creosote deposits.
Don’t Fall for Myths
Countless homeowners have heard about the way creosote is burned out of the chimney when there is a chimney fire. What makes this myth popular is the suggestion that a chimney fire can help a homeowner avoid the annual expense of chimney cleaning. However, this chimney service is actually very affordable.
In theory, it is true that creosote fuels chimney fires. The more creosote there is, the longer the fire will burn. What is not widely understood is the fact that chimney fires virtually always cause some type of structural damage. Even if the chimney fire doesn’t spread into the home, a chimney fire usually leaves behind a damaged chimney flue. Flue damage, in itself, is another life-threatening type of hazard.
For the protection of your home and family, a chimney fire should always be followed by a chimney inspection. When a flue is no longer intact, it must be repaired or replaced before any further use of the fireplace.
More Ways to Prevent Chimney Fires
Major considerations in the prevention of chimney fires are above, and additional tips follow:
- Avoid overly large fires
- Burn only seasoned firewood
- Never use flammable liquids
- Routinely clean out ash buildup