Each year in the United States, it is estimated that there are roughly 26,000 chimney fires. That number is way too high, as is the $125 million in damages that these fires deliver once they spread to the main structure of the property. More alarming still is the fact that injuries and death are sometimes the end result.
It is usually damaged liners or issues with the chimney structure where the problems begin, as sparks and embers can slip through those areas and come into contact with the flammable structures of the property. The most common issue, though, is creosote build-up on the chimney walls. Creosote is a flammable substance that is caused by the cooling of unburned flue gasses.
The Sounds of a Chimney Fire
There is something soothing and familiar about the sounds you hear from your fireplace, and those crackles are a perfect partner to the warmth that the fire delivers. There is nothing soothing about the roaring sound of a chimney fire, which often sounds eerily like a train coming down a tunnel at high speed. If you hear that noise, you are most certainly hearing a chimney fire in action. This sound may not always be present in a chimney fire, though, so learn to look for some of the other signs. These include flying ash, damage to the liner, or damage to the chimney cap.
How to Identify a Chimney Fire
There are two different types of chimney fire, each of which has its own distinct properties. Make no mistake, though, both can do a lot of damage to your home if they are not caught. The best way to avoid these fires is to have ARC Chimney Sweeps of Metairie, LA inspect your chimney annually.
- Free Burning – This type of fire is the one that sounds as though there is a train in your chimney. The sound is very loud, and very easy to hear, and it even has the ability to pull you out of your sleep. You will often see flames coming out of the chimney top, as well as plumes of billowing smoke.
- Slow Burning – This type of fire is a whole lot quieter, but no less dangerous than the free burning variety. The fact that they are so quiet means that they can rage undetected, causing untold damage to your chimney, as well as potentially reaching the flammable areas of your home.
What to do If you Suspect a Chimney Fire
The first step here is to make sure that everyone is out of the house and away from danger, after which you should call the fire department. NEVER tackle these fires on your own. You are still not totally safe after the fire has been extinguished, as these can start up again if you do not take care of the issue that caused the initial fire to start burning.
This is why you also need to call chimney professionals like ARC Chimney Sweeps of Metairie, LA to take care of those issues. We can determine the cause of the fire, and then take the steps to put thing right so that it never happens again.
Prevention is key to chimney safety, and it starts with a clean burning fire.
How to Prevent Chimney Fires
- You should only ever burn seasoned or dried out wood. You will recognize this type of wood by the hollow sound you hear when you knock two pieces together. It will also likely be darker in color, and may also be cracked on the end. 12 months is the optimum time to properly dry out wood, and it should have a moisture meter reading of between 15 and 25%.
- Never use gasoline or kerosene to start a fire. Clean newspaper or dry kindling will work nicely.
- Cardboard, wrapping paper, or old Christmas trees should not go on the fire.
- Large logs are better than smaller ones.
- Make sure your chimney is regularly inspected, and that all creosote buildups are removed.
What Sort of Damage Can a Chimney Fire Deliver?
The type of chimney and the strength of the fire are both factors here. Let’s take a closer look at the two main chimney types:
- Masonry Chimneys – Fire will do some serious structural damage to this type of chimney. Cracks in the all, as well as damage to the clay liner are possible, which could result in a total collapse. The first chimney fire, which can reach temperatures of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, will start the damage, allowing the fires that follow access through the cracks created in the initial fire. Once that happens, you are looking at the blaze potentially taking those pathways and heading into the structural areas of the home. This is where there is some real potential for serious danger.
- Prefabricated Chimneys – These metal chimneys are factory built, and are required to meet specific guidelines in terms of their ability to withstand high temperatures, which are nowhere near the 2000 degrees in a chimney fire. Higher temperatures can cause the metal liner to become distorted, with the chemical makeup sometimes altered. In this type of event, the liner has to be replaced completely before the chimney is used again, which is work that can be done by ARC Chimney Sweeps of Metairie, LA.
Chimney fires are a scary proposition, but the good news is that they can quite easily be prevented. Using the proper fuel is a good start, but it’s still not enough, which is why you need to have regular inspections and cleanings performed.
If you live in the Metairie, LA area, give ARC Chimney Sweeps of Metairie, LA a call at (504) 322-3654, and you chimney fire fears will quickly be removed by our professional technicians.