Friday 26 February 2016

Chimney Fires

Even though Spring is right around the corner we are still experiencing chilly winter weather which means your wood stoves are keeping your home's nice and warm until warmer weather arrives.  Your Quadra Island Fire Department has responded to a number of chimney fires so far in the New Year so we wanted to provide some information to hopefully answer any questions people may have.

What Causes Chimney Fires?
Chimney Fires are most commonly a result of the ignition and burning of creosote build-up in your chimney or stove pipes. When your wood stove burns, the by-products of combustion are exhausted out of your chimney and, while traveling up into the cooler chimney space, form creosote through condensation. Creosote, which is highly flammable, can take many forms (crusty and flaky, tar-like, hardened and often a combination of each) and in sufficient enough quantities can ignite and cause a chimney fire.   

Restricted air supply, burning unseasoned wood and cooler than normal flue temperatures are contributing factors that lead to increased creosote build up.  

Signs and Symptoms of a Chimney Fire.
Chimney fires can range from slow burning and not visible to explosive burning. Active chimney fires can display the following:
  • Loud popping or cracking sounds, or rumbling
  • Dense smoke in home
  • Intense hot smell
  • Reddening of stove pipes
  • Visible flames

What to do if you have a chimney fire?
If you find a chimney fire in your home there are a few steps you can take to increase your family's safety and to minimize the potential damage caused.

Call 911 immediately and get anyone inside to exit to a safe location. Calling 911 first gets our members to your home quicker, which allows us to have a greater effect on a potential emergency situation.  

If conditions are safe to enter your home, and you are able to access your wood stove, throwing a cup of water on the fire can have a very positive effect on extinguishment. Adding a small amount of water to a hot wood stove and shutting the door can create enough steam to put the fire out.  Closing the access door and air inlets is helpful to restrict the air the fire wants.

Once the fire is out you can re-enter your home.  It is advised after any chimney fire to have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a professional.

As the saying goes ‘An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure’, and this is very true in the case of chimney fires.  Here are a few recommended prevention methods:
  • Regular cleaning and inspection of wood stove and chimney components
  • Burn seasoned, dry wood
  • Build and burn smaller, hotter fires
  • Avoid burning cardboard boxes, wrapping paper or trash as these can spark a chimney fire
Although not a prevention, working smoke detectors are essential to early detection.

If anyone has comments or questions, please feel free to leave them on our Blog or the Quadra Island Fire Department Facebook page.