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.
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:
- Burning wet or unseasoned wood can increase the production of creosote.
- Failing to have your chimney swept often enough.
- 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.