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Tips for Avoiding a Chimney Fire

If you don't want this to happen to your beautiful home, you better learn the basics in avoiding chimney fires.

If you don’t want this to happen to your beautiful home, you better learn the basics in avoiding chimney fires.

Over 25,000 chimney fires in the U.S. last year were responsible for over $120 million in property damage. Chimney fires can quickly spread into house fires in a relatively short period of time. No one ever wants to experience a chimney fire, or worse yet a fire in the chimney that spreads to other areas of the home. This is an important issue, and there are things everyone can do to protect themselves and their families from the chances of a chimney fire ever affecting them.

Why Me?

Most chimney fires happen for one simple reason: improper usage and care of wood-burning appliances. The importance of yearly chimney inspections and sweepings cannot be understated, as they are the one true way to minimize the likelihood of a chimney fire sparking in the first place. The fact is that clean chimneys simply don’t catch fire.

What Causes Chimney Fires?

When wood is burnt, the emissions are expelled into the chimney. As these gases rise, they cool down and form creosote — a tar-like substance that sticks to your chimney or chimney liner. Creosote is extremely flammable and can be lit by even a small spark or floating ember from the fire below. The three most common causes of chimney fires are:

  1. Burning wet or unseasoned wood can increase the production of creosote.
  2. Failing to have your chimney swept often enough.
  3. Blockages in your chimney that can restrict air flow.

Knowledge is key to reducing the potential of a chimney fire happening in your home.

What can I do to Prevent a Chimney Fire?

Your first line of defense is always prevention. Make sure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in multiple locations within your home. Make sure you only burn dry, seasoned wood. Make sure you get your chimney swept at least once a year (more frequently is you use your fireplace more heavily). Make sure you never burn trash, cardboard or other types of waste, as these are more likely to produce sparks.

Chimney fires are a dangerous and serious problem to have, but the good news is that they are almost entirely preventable. Homeowners must be careful to only burn materials that are ready and meant to be burned. While using the correct fuel is important, a chimney fire can still occur even after taking all of the necessary precautions. This is why annual chimney inspections and sweepings are a critical part of your home maintenance routine. If your chimney is clean, the chances of a chimney fire occurring are slim-to-none. Don’t wait to call to schedule your inspection and cleaning. Our CSIA-certified chimney technicians will help to ensure that you and your family have a safe and happy heating season.

Don’t Forget About Your Dryer Vents

Don’t Forget About Your Dryer Vents

Never overlook your dryer vents. You may think they don't need that much attention, but  when taken for granted, it could create a problem in your home.

Never overlook your dryer vents. You may think they don’t need that much attention, but when taken for granted, it could create a problem in your home.

With things like carpools, soccer practices, and other family-related activities with which to contend, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some things, often through no fault of our own, take a back seat to everything else that’s going on. One thing that is commonly overlooked by homeowners is the proper maintenance and cleaning of dryer vents. People may think that cleaning these vents isn’t all that important. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Dangers of Lint Buildup

There are thousands of fires caused by dryer lint buildup that happen every year. One of the ways to decrease the chances of fire is to clean your dryer vent after every laundry load you use it for. In fact, studies prove that effective cleaning maintenance of dryer vents can reduce the chances of fire by 90%. Not only does vent cleaning help prevent house fires, it also will make sure our clothes are dry and smelling nice after each use.

Increased Energy Consumption

Aside from the dangers of fire, buildup of dirt and lint in the dryer vent can also significantly increase your energy consumption. This is due in large part to the fact that a clogged vent makes your dryer take more time to dry your clothes. There are numerous warning signs that you can watch for that will indicate that you have a dirty dryer vent. Possible signs that the vent may be clogged is if the dryer no longer dries the clothes in one cycle, the clothes carry a musty smell after a drying cycle, the dryer seems to run hotter than normal, a visible amount of lint is noticed around the lint filter, and debris is noticed within the outside dryer vent opening.

Importance of Vent Cleaning

To avoid this potentially dangerous buildup in your vents, you need to follow a predetermined maintenance schedule. As a general rule of thumb, the majority of dryer vents need to be cleaned at least once a year; some dryer ducts need more frequent attention. Some determining factors include:

  • The number of people who are using the same dryer
  • The age and condition of the dryer
  • The length of your dryer vent

The best way to ensure dryer safety is to clean the lint screen after every use and to have your vent and duct cleaned regularly. Each time you run your dryer, lint builds up in the vent. Cleaning the lint screen will help you keep the dryer running and working well, but a little lint will remain within the vent. It is very important to keep up with dryer vent cleaning, as the built up lint poses a very serious hazard to your house and everyone in it. If you are unsure when your dryer was last serviced or you notice that the dryer seems to be running hotter than normal, you should contact us as soon as possible.

Prepare, Plan & Practice

Prepare, Plan & Practice

Fire Safety and Preparedness at Home

Every year, fires have claimed the lives of over three thousand Americans and have managed to cause injury to around seventeen thousand. A simple flame can turn into a blazing fire, changing a families’ life forever. This can be attributed to many things, including creosote build-up, blockages in your chimney and unsafe burning practices and materials. Always remember, the safest, most efficient burn is one with dry, seasoned firewood. Burning anything else increases risk and creosote buildup.

There are many family fire safety tips that are recommended by numerous fire safety agencies, but here are two of the most important precautionary measures of all – working fire alarms and a plan in case of emergency. Don’t let forgetfulness be the reason your home and family are put in harm’s way.

You put your family and home at risk when you fail to maintain working fire alarms and an escape plan.

You put your family and home at risk when you fail to maintain working fire alarms and an escape plan.

Fire alarms are required on each level of the home and in each bedroom. Of course, no matter how many alarms you have, unless your batteries are working, they will not be able to do their job. Experts recommend that you check your batteries each time you “spring ahead” and “fall behind.”

Second, a fire escape plan is a necessity. The National Fire Protection Association provides a model for how to create this essential document for your home. Their website is also chock full of fantastic resources for the entire family. Just as batteries are key for alarms…practice is key for plans. Make sure all members of your family know what to do in case of a fire. Everyone needs to know to stay low to avoid harmful smoke, stop, drop and roll if clothing catches fire and to check doorknobs before exiting. The family also needs to know where to meet outside while waiting for firefighters.

When you cover these two critical bases, you can rest a bit easier knowing that your family is well-prepared. Call today to have your chimneys and fireplaces inspected and swept by the certified professionals of Weststar Chimney. Having been in business in San Diego for more than a decade, we are ready to take one worry off your plate. Don’t forget — the best way to avoid tragedy is to prepare rigorously.