How to Prevent Chimney Fires this Winter

Here’s How To Avoid Chimney Fires this Winter

The film Mary Poppins Returns isn’t the only one in which a chimney sweep appears. They’re also frequent visitors to homes with wood-burning fireplaces and wood stoves—or should be, for safety reasons.

In the United States, about 25,000 chimney fires are reported each year. Others are slow-burning and go undetected until a chimney inspection discovers damage. While some sound like a low-flying aircraft and feature flames shooting out the top of the chimney, others are slow-burning and go undetected until a chimney inspection uncovers damage. Chimney fires are hazardous, but they can be avoided.

Chimney fires are caused by a variety of factors.

Creosote accumulation in the flue that runs the length of the chimney. Creosote is a highly combustible black or dark brown residue formed by combustion. This substance might be crusty, tar-like, sticky, or solidified in appearance. A chimney fire can start if there’s enough of it—and the internal flue temperature is high enough or sparks or flames reach it.

How to prevent chimney fires:

  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year to avoid chimney fires. If you use it on a regular basis, such as a wood stove for heating, you’ll need to clean it several times a year. Cleaning a chimney can cost anywhere from $125 to $250, depending on the style and condition of the chimney.
  • Make “pure” fires. That implies greater flame and less smoke from flames. Burn seasoned wood that has been drying for a year or more to achieve a clean fire. Keep it covered until you’re ready to use it so it’s dry when you put it in the firebox. Burning evergreens is not a good idea since they burst and ignite more than hardwoods, posing a fire hazard.
  • Keep the damper open all the way. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a partially closed damper restricts airflow, which contributes to creosote buildup.
  • Keep in mind what you’re burning. Some folks use rolled-up newspaper logs to start their fires. Burning glossy sheets, wrapping paper, or cardboard can emit dangerous chemicals. Never place paper on top of a fire; instead, feed it behind the grate to prevent burning particles from rising up the flue and causing a chimney fire.
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