Chimney fires are extremely common because in our modern world the fireplace is no longer a primary use of heat. As a consequence, very few fireplace owners have had fireplace etiquette handed down to them from their parents or grandparents, and very few people know how to maintain a fireplace fire properly and safely.
Outdoor fires are very different from indoor ones. Unfortunately, not many people realize this. Most people can start a fire and they mistakenly believe that because they know how to start one that they also know how to manage one, but that’s not necessarily true. Just because you are able to start a fire doesn’t mean you have the knowledge and skill to maintain an indoor fire safely. Keep your home and family safe by using these safety tips to prevent chimney fires.
Clean the Chimney
The easiest way to prevent chimney fires chimney fires is by having the chimney professionally cleaned every year, especially if you burn pine or other resinous woods. Resinous woods leave a byproduct, called creosote, behind in the chimney when they burn. This creosote coating is highly flammable and, given enough heat, will ignite causing a chimney fire.
Keep the Fire Small
Keep indoor fires small and never leave then unattended. Chimney fires are caused by creosote build-up on the inside of the chimney igniting and sweeping up the chimney, so by keeping the fire small, you can reduce the chance of having a chimney fire.
Know the Warning Signs of a Chimney Fire
What to watch for: a loud roaring sound, the sound and vibration of shaking pipes, and wind-like sucking sounds. If you notice any of these signs, you probably are having a chimney fire. If a chimney fire does begin, close the fireplace’s air vents and close the damper to cut off the fire’s air supply. Leave the house and call fire department fro a neighbor’s phone.
Beware the After-burn
Just because the fire is our doesn’t mean the danger is over. Excessive heat may have started an unnoticeable smoldering between the walls and this smoldering may re-ignite hours later, causing a house fire. Always have the fire department do a thorough check of the chimney and walls even if you were able to put the fire out on your own.
Take Care of Your Ashes
Dispose of fireplace ashes in a lidded metal trash can outdoors. Seemingly innocuous “dead” ashes have the uncanny ability to re-ignite themselves days after their removal and ashes left in paper bags can burn down porches and homes.
Fireplace fires are cozy and inviting, but can turn tragically dangerous in a moment. Always practice good fire safety habits when making fires, have a fire safety plan in case of emergency, and never leave a fire unattended.