The purpose of a chimney is to carry dangerous gases from your fireplace or woodstove out of your home. If your chimney hasn’t been inspected and cleaned in awhile, you risk the possibility of debris catching fire inside your chimney. The best way to prevent a chimney fire is to have an annual chimney inspection by a certified chimney sweep such as the Oregon Chimney Guys.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
What Causes a Chimney Fire?
Chimney fires occur when creosote buildup or other debris catches fire inside the chimney. Conditions that encourage creosote buildup include burning unseasoned wood, restricted air supply (such as failing to open the damper), overloading the firebox, and cooler than normal chimney temperatures.
Loud crackling or popping noises, a low rumbling sound, an intense smell, and abnormal amounts of dense smoke are all telltale signs of a chimney fire. If you notice any of these, get yourself to a safe place, check to see if flames are coming out of your chimney, and call 911.
Free Burning vs. Slow Burning Chimney Fires
It’s important to note that not all chimney fires have obvious indicators. The majority of chimney fires go undetected and because they are slow-burning. These chimney fires happen when the inside of a chimney has caught fire but doesn’t have enough air to fuel it in the same way as a free-burning fire. Slow-burning fires reach very high temperatures and can cause just as much structural damage as free-burning fires.
The Dangers of Chimney Fires
Chimney fires are very destructive and put your entire home and household at risk. The extreme temperatures can melt mortar, crack tiles, and cause liners to collapse. This allows the flames to reach the vulnerable wood frame of your house.
How to Prevent a Chimney Fire
Prevent chimney fires by avoiding situations that encourage creosote buildup, as mentioned above. The best way to prevent a chimney fire is to have an annual chimney inspection and sweep by a certified chimney sweep such as the Oregon Chimney Guys. This will remove creosote and any other obstructions and will identify any structural problems before they spiral out of control.