The Green Bay area is extremely chilly this time of year. Because of this, more people have started using their wood-burning appliances to help supplement their home’s heat budget. However, if not well maintained, your wood burning appliance, whether it’s a stove, masonry chimney, or some other appliance, has the potential to start a fire in your home’s chimney. Because chimney fires are a danger to you and your home, we here at The Chimney Guy want to spread knowledge on how chimney fires happen and what can be done to help prevent them.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), more than 20,000 residential house fires every year can be attributed to a fire that has started in the chimney. These type of fires make up a large proportion of all residential fires annually. Unfortunately, most of these fires could have been prevented with just a little maintenance and upkeep. In fact, research has shown that a majority of chimney fires were caused by chimney’s that were not cleaned properly.

Why are dirty chimneys dangerous?close up of fireplace

When you burn any type of fuel, it releases smoke, soot and many other types of gases. Although all fuel types release smoke, soot and gas, wood tends to release more of than then other fuel sources such as natural gas or pellets. As these byproducts of the fuel burning go up your chimney, they cool down and some of it condenses on the inside of your chimney. After a while, this condensation accumulates forming a thick, tar-like substance. This substance is called creosote. Creosote is combustible and although it needs to get very hot to start on fire, once it does, it creates a fire that is nearly impossible to put out. Furthermore, it doesn’t take much creosote to start a chimney fire. As little as a inch of creosote buildup is considered hazardous.

Another chimney fire hazard is caused by debris from trees, animal nests and anything else that may have fallen or blown into your chimney. Because this type of debris is composed of wood, sticks, and leaves, it can start on fire at lower temperatures than creosote, however, once it ignites, it may get hot enough to start any creosote in your chimney on fire as well.

Preventing chimney fires

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent creosote from building up on the inside your chimney. However, there are few things that you can do to slow down the rate at which it accumulates. Firewood that is dry and well seasoned burns hotter and cleaner. This means that there is less byproduct available to condense and turn into creosote. Another thing you can do is to make sure your damper is working properly. If you fire is getting the airflow it needs it will burn hotter and help make smoke and byproducts leave your chimney more quickly, giving it less time to condense. You should also make sure your chimney cap is working properly. This will help prevent animals and debris from entering your chimney.

Get an annual inspection!

The most critical thing you can do to decrease your chances of a chimney fire is to have it inspected once a year by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep. Annual inspections are important for making sure your chimney and all its components are working properly. During an inspection, a chimney sweep will look for damage to your fireplace and chimney. They will also check all the other components of your chimney system (chimney cap, dampers, flashing, etc.) as well. Finally, they will also make sure that your chimney isn’t clogged with creosote or other types of debris. IF it is, it will need to be swept clean.

Don’t risk a chimney fire in your home! At The Chimney Guy, we offer chimney inspections and cleanings by CSIA certified chimney sweeps. Although it’s our busy time of the year, we still have some appointment slots open, so call us today at (920) 830-1920, or schedule an appointment online at our scheduling page. We look forward to hearing from you!