How to Prevent a Chimney Fire
Imagine you’re curled up in your favorite blanket, surrounded by your loved ones during the cold winter months. But, what happens if you have a chimney fire; have we thought about how to prevent a chimney fire in our homes?
Here are 7 ways to prevent a chimney fire:
- Have Your Chimney and Fireplace Cleaned and Inspected Annually- A damaged chimney can spread fire to the surrounding areas in your home. A dirty chimney with a lot of creosote and soot buildup is dangerous because these materials burn at very high temperatures, spreading the fire. It is therefore important to have your chimney and fireplace checked annually. For best results, use the services of a certified chimney sweep. Annual cleaning of the chimney will ensure better passage for the smoke and exhaust gases, in addition to regular removal of dangerous creosote.
- Build Small Fires- A small fire that burns well does not produce as much creosote as a large fire that is burning slowly. This is because a fire that burns brightly produces lesser smoke and soot, thereby reducing the buildup on the inside of the chimney. Small fires are also safer and easier to control.
- Use Seasoned Wood- Dry, seasoned wood is the best choice for starting a fire. This is because wet wood burns slowly, creating more smoke, which condenses on the inside of the chimney. This results in an increase in the creosote deposits in your chimney. To build any fire, always use wood that has been seasoned for 6 months or longer.
- Never Use Paper or Combustible Liquids in the Fireplace- Never use combustible materials or liquids to start a fire. The flames can get out of hand very quickly, resulting in disaster. Never burn paper, garbage, plants, Christmas trees or wrapping paper in a fireplace. These materials can float up the chimney when aflame and ignite the creosote deposits on top, resulting in a chimney fire.
- Use a Chimney Liner- A chimney liner is an essential part of a fire prevention plan. Chimney liners provide better air flow, better exhaust passage for combustion gases and also protect the chimney structure from excessive heating and exhaust fumes. As a result, your chimney is easier to keep clean. The chimney structure is protected from damage, thereby reducing the chances of a chimney fire.
- Install a Chimney Cap- A chimney cap prevents unwanted elements in your chimney. Animals or birds setting up residence in the chimney could ignite a chimney fire. Also, leaves or twigs that could fall inside are highly flammable and can result in a chimney fire.
- Ensure Good Air Supply- Restriction in the air supply to the fireplace aids in the formation of creosote. To improve air flow, ensure that the fireplace damper is fully open. Leave the glass doors open to ensure that the air supply is not cut off while the fire is burning.
In case you do have a chimney fire, here are 6 steps to put it out:
- Step 1 - Safety First- As soon as you are aware that the chimney is on fire, evacuate all family members and pets from the building, and call the fire department. Even if you do end up extinguishing the fire by yourself, it is always a good idea to have firefighters on their way in the event that things go wrong. Before attempting to put out the chimney fire, evaluate the situation to ensure it is safe for you to tackle it yourself. Make sure you put on heat-proof gloves as well.
- Step 2 - Close Openings- Close any primary or secondary openings into the fireplace or chimney. This helps to deprive the fire of the oxygen it needs to keep burning. This may eliminate smaller fires altogether or just lessen the flames in something larger. You will also lessen the chances of any embers taking light after you've put the fire out.
- Step 3 - Put Out the Fire in the Grate- Tip a generous amount of sand or baking soda onto the fire. This also helps to starve the flames of oxygen. Keeping a bucket of sand by your fireplace at all times is generally a good, practical idea that might just save your home!
- Step 4 - Try a Fire Suppressant- A few products are available on the market to help get rid of dangerous fires. Chimfex is similar to a road flare. Once lit, it is tossed into the fire where it consumes all the available oxygen in the flow path. These are fairly inexpensive and have a decent shelf-life. FireEx is another such product that tends to be a bit more expensive, but airtight plastic packaging ensures that it has an indefinite shelf-life. It is a good idea to have a few of these products handy at all times if you use your fireplace frequently.
- Step 5 - Use a Fire Extinguisher- To be on the safe side, you can use a fire extinguisher on the flames as well. This should left to the last as extinguishers can create a big mess. Direct the nozzle towards the grate and spray in short bursts to make sure that any glowing embers or flames that didn't get extinguished by the sand are completely out. Don't stand too close when using the fire extinguisher as the pressure from the nozzle can throw glowing embers into the air.
- Step 6 - Hose the Chimney Stack- When you are satisfied that the fire in the grate is no longer alight, go outside and hose-down the chimney. Do this from a standing position. If you have a power attachment on your hose, use it as you will find it much easier to direct the water towards where you need it. Use only a fine mist; the heat from the fire will turn it into steam that will help dampen what's left of the fire. Only perform this maneuver if you're confident that you know the right amount of water to use, as too much can end up damaging the flue liner.