Clean Chimneys and the Creosote that Can Destroy

With the colder weather and the falling of the leaves, comes the busy season for chimney fires. People who haven’t used their chimneys or wood stoves in four or five months all of the sudden get one cold night and have not spent the time to clean out creosote from the chimney. In the matter of minutes, these individuals could be homeless.

There are several ways to prevent a chimney fire, while still keeping your family warm and safe, but first you need to understand what are the causes of a chimney fire.

Chimneys are designed to remove the by-products of the fire created in fireplaces or wood stoves, while creating a contained area for generating heat for the home. As the by-products leave the fire they move up a colder chimney and form condensation, just like on the lid of a hot cup of fast-food coffee. The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote.

Creosote, as defined by Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia, is a colorless to yellowish greasy liquid with a smoky odor and burned taste. When involved with the soot from a fire it can be black or brown in appearance. Creosote can be present as crusty and flaky; tar-like; or shiny and hardened.

Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible and can catch fire inside the chimney, if this happens the obvious result is a chimney fire. Although any amount of creosote can burn, professional chimney sweeps are concerned when creosote builds up enough to sustain a long, hot, destructive chimney fire and eventually house fire.

As earlier mentioned there are several ways to prevent a chimney fire. First try in every effort to use seasoned woods or very dry woods; never under any circumstances burn cardboard, lined papers (like wrapping paper), or especially trash; and be sure to have the chimney inspected and cleaned on a regular basis, as a clean chimney won’t catch on fire. There is also a product out there called the Creosote Sweeping Log (CSL). For the two months after the use of the CSL, more than 50% of creosote build-up is prevented.

Remember you have to weigh your costs, is it cheaper to get your chimney cleaned and/or inspected or to spend years trying to replace all your old photos and memories?

There are steps you should take when you have a chimney fire and additional steps you can take to lessen the damage.
1) Get yourself and your family out, if you can’t find your family pets, they are probably already outside, animals know what to do
2) Call the fire department, away from the house, preferably at a neighbor’s. Firefighters have the knowledge and the equipment to handle the harsh conditions.
If you can do something without putting your life at risk, there may be some additional steps as previously noted to lessen the damage. Remember only do these steps if the fire is contained to the chimney.
3) Put a chimney fire extinguisher into the fireplace. A chimney fire extinguisher looks like a large road flare. If you have a chimney fire, you strike it and place it on the fire. It then emits a huge quantity of smoke that suffocates the chimney fire.
4) Close the glass doors on the fireplace
5) Go to the neighbor’s house where your family is already waiting

Once the fire department has left and the fire is completely extinguished it is strongly advised that you have the chimney inspected to see if can be re-used or needs to be rebuilt.

In conclusion with the cold weather you should be finding your local CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) Certified Chimney Sweep to inspect your chimney otherwise you may be calling one of my colleague’s to come and save your house.

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