Over 30 percent of American homes use fireplaces, wood stoves, and other fuel-fired appliances as the primary heat sources.
A chimney fire may be the last thing on your mind as you prepare to enjoy a cozy evening in front of a warm hearth in the company of people you care about. But such fires occur more often than you would guess and are often caused due to minor issues that were neglected or considered harmless. There are many causes of chimney fires and most of them are preventable if only you adopt a few precautions. All home heating systems need regular maintenance to keep them in solid and remarkable shape.
1.Lessons to be Learned
Statistics from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) indicate that an estimated 26,000 fires are caused annually due to fireplaces and chimneys. These result in property losses amounting to over $120 million and at least 10 deaths every year. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) suggests that everyone follow some fire safety practices to avoid mishaps and possible catastrophes.
Obtaining a spectacular and/or acute understanding of why and how such chimney fires are caused will help you prevent them and combat them if one should indeed break out. Though it may seem like a small fire, things can get out of control quickly and end up destroying your entire house in about 10 minutes or so.
2.How Are Chimney Fires Caused?
When you burn wood in your fireplace or in the wood stove, the smoke created begins to travel up the chimney. As it travels upwards through the chimney, the smoke starts to cool down and condenses. The condensation leads to the smoke particles bonding together to form a flaky or gummy substance on the inside of the chimney. This substance is known as creosote and is the leading cause of most chimney fires.
Creosote is flammable and if even a single spark that travels up the chimney and ignites it, there could be a strong or raging fire within a matter of minutes. Sparks are more likely to go up the chimney when materials such as tissue paper or wrapping paper are thrown into the fire. This is why it is important to clean chimneys on a regular basis. The cleaning helps get rid of the creosote and thus reduces the risks of such fires. Creosote is primarily formed due to the use of unseasoned or green wood in the fireplace. So, using well-cured wood will help keep the danger at bay. Also, a small, hot, roaring fire will not cause as much build up of creosote as a slow, large fire. Leaving wood embers smoldering for a long time is also a chimney fire hazard.
Obtaining a certified chimney specialist to inspect and clean your chimney or wood stove every year is tremendous preventive measure. The area around the hearth must be free of debris or any kind of flammable material and a metal mesh screen can be placed in front of fireplaces that do not have a glass door. Make sure you never use flammable liquids to start a fire and build small fires so the smoke is also kept to a minimum. The wood logs should be placed well inside the fireplace before igniting the flame. Don’t ever burn any kind of trash or cardboard boxes in your fireplace and never leave any fire unattended. You should have smoke alarms all over your home and regularly check their batteries so they are functioning as they should. All heating equipment in your home should have adequate venting systems in place and all vent pipes should be at least three feet above the roof. Ensure that everyone living in the house is aware of fire hazards and the precautions necessary.
4.Fire Safety is Paramount
If a chimney fire should break out despite your best efforts (although this would be odd if you follow these precautions), you should act quickly to control the damage. Clear the house of all occupants and call the fire department immediately. Always remember that if there is one instance of a chimney fire, it is more likely to recur. Thus, you must immediately call in the professionals to determine the cause of the fire if they are not already summoned by the authorities. You could look at this as just adhering to your civic duty. Following these instructions can help you avert a major disaster befalling you or your family someday and saving your home and possessions.
Statistics from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) indicate that an estimated 26,000 fires are caused annually due to fireplaces and chimneys.
Creosote is flammable and if even a single spark that travels up the chimney and ignites it, there could be a strong or raging fire within a matter of minutes.