How to Prevent a Chimney Fire in A Wood Burning Fireplace
Chimney fires are caused by the buildup of creosote in your chimney igniting once it reaches its flash point at only 165°F. To put it in perspective, wood catches at only 390° and can easily get up to 1,000° in your fireplace.
The easiest way to prevent a chimney fire is to have a professional look at it annually. A yearly cleaning will both remove some of the creosote from last year’s fires and ensure that nothing has built a nest while you haven’t been using it.
- Chimney Inspections are also recommended at this time as they’ll ensure that your chimney is not only clean but safe for use. Inspections look for structural damage, broken flue tiles, the integrity of your damper, etc.
- The daily cleaning you perform yourself is also important to the health of your chimney.
- Removing leftover ash before your next fire prevents it from riding the heat waves up the chimney and sticking to the walls, causing buildup.
- Creosote logs can also aid in your maintenance routine. The extra smoke that’s produced by burning the log releases the loose creosote in your flue which settles in your firebox to be swept away with your ashes.
- It should be noted that this option is the most effective in completely vertical chimneys with no bends or damage as larger pieces can build up and potentially cause a blockage. This option should only be used between professional cleanings, not in place of them.
You should only burn seasoned firewood in your fireplace. You shouldn’t use anything to start your fireplace that isn’t intended to do so including:
- Liquid accelerants
- Paper or Trash
You should also have a good idea of what kind of wood you’re burning in your fireplace.
- What species of wood is it? Different kinds of wood burn differently and one may be better for your uses than another.
- Make sure it’s well seasoned or kiln dried.
- For more information on wood selections, see our article on fire wood.
Maintain Air Flow
Maintaining air flow is an integral part of a healthy chimney system, most notably the pull of the draft going up the chimney that removes the smoke and fumes from your home. If this draft isn’t strong enough, smoke and other particulates like embers can become sluggish or even stuck in your chimney. This has the potential to create more creosote on your walls or ignite what’s already accumulated there. You can use a couple techniques to make sure your draft is strong:
- Warm the flue before starting a full sized fire.
- Make sure you have a chimney cap, preferably with mesh to prevent rain and animals from getting in.
- Make sure your damper is fully open when starting your fire and only adjust after the fire is established without restricting too much air flow.
Worst Case Scenario
In the event of a chimney fire…
- Immediately call the fire department. Even if you think the fire has subsided there may be smoldering pockets in the chimney that you can’t see that could reignite the fire later.
- Ensure that nothing is around the fireplace that could ignite something in your home. It never hurts to have a fire extinguisher close at hand.
- If you have one, light a chimney extinguisher like Chimfex which will remove the oxygen from the fire and extinguish it.
- Afterwards, be sure to schedule an inspection from your preferred chimney cleaner to see if anything was damaged in the fire.
A Note from Maschino’s
Please be aware that while Maschino’s has a lot of information on wood fireplaces and the ability to sell and install them, Maschino’s does not have a trained chimney sweep on staff at this time. Currently we are recommending: