Chimney Tips & Info
Chimney fires don’t have to happen — keep the fire you want from starting one you don’t want.
Here are some ways to avoid chimney fires:
- Have your chimney inspected annually by a certified professional and cleaned when necessary.
- Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than hard-wood versus soft-wood considerations).
- Build smaller, hotter, fires that burn more completely and produce less smoke.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash, or Christmas trees — these can spark a chimney fire.
- Install stove pipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures when wood stoves are in use so you can adjust burning practices as needed. Inspect and clean catalytic combustors on a regular basis.
What does creosote look like?
How do I know there is a chimney fire occurring?
You may notice a roaring noise that sounds unusual or have very black smoke or flames exiting the chimney. A wood stove smoke pipe can glow bright red during a chimney fire. If you can see a problem or have a feeling that something is not right, call the fire department to check it out.
Why is a chimney fire dangerous?
Many people are misinformed that a chimney fire is no big deal and can actually clean out the flue in a chimney. This could not be further from the truth. Chimney fires occur inside a flue when the built up creosote deposits get hot enough to ignite. Creosote is highly flammable in all its stages and burns very hot. A chimney fire can spread to the structure of the home and catch it on fire as well. Chimney fires commonly damage the integrity of the flue so that the gases released while burning do not exit completely and carbon monoxide is released into the house.
What to do if you have a chimney fire
If you realize a chimney fire is occurring, follow these steps:
- Get everyone out of the house, and call 911 or the local fire department.
- If you can do so without risk to yourself, use a garden hose to spray down the roof — not the chimney — so the fire won’t spread to the rest of the structure.
- Have a CSIA Certified Professional inspect the chimney for damage as soon as possible after the fire. A condition called sudden thermal shock, due to the intense heat of the fire, is likely to have damaged the flue that contained the fire.
- Until that flue and any adjoining flues have been inspected, there is the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning from breaches and cracks in the flues caused by the fire. Don’t take chances on your health or safety. Contrary to popular belief, chimney fires don’t clean all the creosote out of the chimney and what is left is very flammable. The flues need a thorough sweep and inspection to be deemed safe to use again.
For more chimney safety tips, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website at www.csia.org
Customers often ask why we always recommend a chimney cap. Chimney caps are the single best way to extend the life of a chimney because they are the first method of keeping water out of the flues. Water entering the chimney will find its way down through the easiest path, frequently causing structural damage to the chimney along the way. Eventually the water will find its way into the house and become evident by puddles in the firebox, stained walls and ceilings, or problems with dampness and mold.
Chimney caps are also necessary to keep raccoons, squirrels, bats, and birds out of the chimney and the house. Both bats and raccoons can carry rabies, and raccoons also carry a type of roundworm that is transmissible and extremely dangerous to humans. Squirrel and bird nests can plug the flues causing smoke to back up and also lead to chimney fires. Raccoons and squirrels can destroy the inside of a house in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Clean up after an animal infestation is quite costly and requires the sweeping and disinfecting of the chimney and then possible cleaning of the house. Installation of a chimney cap can save a homeowner many hundreds of dollars, possibly thousands of dollars.