You may think of your chimney as an architectural adornment that provides warmth on cold winter days, but in reality, it’s a tunnel to remove dangerous flue gasses from your home. These fumes cause condensation inside the chimney, which in turn deposits creosote — a highly flammable chemical that frequently causes chimney fires.
As this blog has previously noted, the threat of chimney blazes in New England, and beyond, is real. Chimney fires can have many consequences, including tragic ones. In Massachusetts alone, in 2018, there were 556 fires involving chimneys, fireplaces and wood stoves, according to mass.gov. These led to one death and $3 million in property losses.
Additionally, the very nature of chimney fires makes them extremely dangerous, according to an informative website. The fires aren’t dramatic: they survive on limited air and fuel, meaning they burn slowly — and are often undetected until an inspection. Without the owner realizing what’s happening, these fires can melt a chimney, or make it crack and collapse. Then the fire moves into the house — and potentially, into the wood frame.
Lack of Diligence Makes Chimneys Risky
Chimney fires can strike anywhere. In February, a chimney fire in Plympton, Massachusetts, ignited the roof of a house, according to the local press. It took firefighters 10 minutes to control the blaze, and luckily, there were no injuries. “This incident could have been a lot worse and is a good reminder to make sure your chimney is inspected and cleaned yearly,” the Plympton Fire Department proclaimed on Facebook.
Fighting Chimney Fires
Fortunately, there is plenty we can do to protect ourselves from these sorts of blazes, as one fireplace industry web page explains. The key thing is chimney hygiene — keep the structure clean and creosote free. Other specifics, drawn from the sources cited above, include:
- Burn only dry seasoned wood — never ignite fuel such as pine boughs or wrapping paper
- If cutting your own wood, leave it out to dry for one entire year
- Besides having the chimney cleaned annually, have it inspected by a certified safety pro
- Make sure you properly dispose of the ash — shovel it out and put it in a metal bucket and place that outside
- Install a smoke alarm
For extra protection, consider procuring an environmental monitoring system, with related services. Look for solutions that can detect carbon monoxide gas or the presence of fire. Sign up with a monitoring company that can alert the fire department for immediate response, 24/7.
Following these tips will let you enjoy your hearth in peace.
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