Ask the average homeowner if they’ve had a chimney fire, and likely they’ll say no. They may be very wrong. Many chimney fires start and go out on their own without people in the home being aware of it. Here are some things you need to know about chimney fires and what they can do to your chimney.
How chimney fires start
Most fires in a chimney begin with ignited creosote, a sticky, flakey or solid substance caused by smoke condensation in the flue. Creosote is highly flammable, with the majority of fires it causes centered in your chimney’s smoke chamber just above the firebox.
Signs of a chimney fire
An active chimney fire may not be a big, blazing event that sends a 4-alarm call to your local fire department. But most fires will give you clues including:
- Excess dense smoke coming from either end of the chimney
- A rumbling sound like from a distant train
- The sound or cracking or ticking
If you notice any of these signs while the fireplace is in use, call 911 immediately and extinguish the fire in the firebox, if you can do so safely.
Signs that a chimney fire has happened
CSIA-certified chimney sweeps regularly see the signs left in the wake of a chimney fire. You can spot some of them yourself.
- Creosote flakes in the firebox, on the roof near the chimney or on the ground
- Chips of flue liner tiles in the firebox
- Discolored or melted roofing material near the chimney
- Obvious damage to your chimney cap, flue cover or chimney chase top
- Warped fireplace damper
- Dark, smoky stains on the masonry near the top of the chimney
How chimney fires can damage your chimney
Your chimney liner – whether it be stainless steel, clay tile or a poured-in-place compound – was designed to withstand a reasonable amount of punishment from heat. But the intense heat from a chimney fire can quickly begin to erode the liner material.
With a damaged chimney liner, the interior masonry of the chimney is now at risk of brick damage. Flammable materials of your house may also be at risk of a fire that’s much more devastating than a chimney fire.
Chimney fires may damage the chimney cap or chase cover, which will then be unable to protect against incoming rain and obstruction-causing debris. A fire can damage parts of the attic or may cause a fire in some of those materials.
The importance of regular chimney inspections and chimney sweeping
There are two times you should contact a local, reputable chimney sweep:
- When you know or suspect you’ve had a chimney fire
- Once a year for an inspection and cleaning – whether or not there has been a fire
Only a certified chimney technician can properly clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace and recommend needed repairs before early damage gets out of hand. If you’ve had a chimney fire, your inspector will perform a Level 2 chimney inspection that includes the use of video imaging technology to assess the condition of your liner and interior masonry.
High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, provides licensed chimney sweep, chimney inspection and chimney repair services. Call us at (301) 519-3500 to keep your chimney, home and family safe and secure.
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