If your home features a fireplace, the holidays are a wonderful time to sit near the hearth and enjoy a cozy fire. If a chimney fire occurs, the results are more than devastating, especially during the holiday season. Not only is your chimney, roof, and possibly your entire home in danger, so are all the trappings of your Christmas celebration– cherished decorations, expensive gifts, and even the Christmas tree. Here's what you need to know about chimney fires and what you can do to prevent one.
Beginnings Of A Chimney Fire
Caused by creosote build-up and even birds nests, chimney fires cause around $30 million dollars damage each year. A fire in your chimney may be loud and unmistakable, or sly, quiet and slow burning. Both are dangerous because of their horrifying potential. Sparks can spread to the exterior roof or enter your home and catch fire. The intense heat even smolders and spreads through interior wooden rafters and walls to burst into flames later.
Preventing A Chimney Fire
To prevent a chimney fire from occurring, especially during the holidays, have the chimney swept and inspected regularly. Also, only burn a clean fire in your fireplace by:
- Burning large logs rather than several smaller logs.
- Starting your fire with clean, dry kindling such as newspaper. Avoid using kerosene or gas.
- Using completely dry wood. You can tell it is very dry by the hollow sound it makes when struck against another log, has cracks on the ends, and is darker in color.
- Not burning trash, wrapping paper, and cardboard, which increase creosote buildup. Recycle these remainders of Christmas gifts instead!
- Not burning your live Christmas tree. Fresh pine trees contain volatile sap, which creates large, sudden sparks and encourages creosote production. Recycle your tree into wood mulch chips instead.
- Choose hardwoods such as oak, beech, ash, and maple for burning, which contain very little sap.
Dealing With A Chimney Fire
If a fire starts in your chimney before you are able to take preventive measures, you may hear a loud roaring sound, see visible flames from outside the chimney top, or experience a sudden rush of heat, smoke and sparks into your home. Quickly close the damper and fireplace doors if possible, get everyone out of the house and call 911.
If you are concerned about house fires in addition to chimney fires, place several fire extinguishers in several rooms throughout your home, especially next to the hearth. Consider easing your fears by investing in fire suppression systems.