ECCFPD Battalion Chief
ailing to maintain your woodstove or fireplace properly can lead to a chimney fire. Chimney fires occur when combustible deposits on the inner walls of the chimney ignite. These combustible deposits, called creosote, are a natural byproduct of wood burning. A fire hazard exists if ¼ inch of creosote (or more) coats the inner walls of the chimney.
Chimney fires don’t occur in clean, intact, properly in-stalled chimneys. Have a professional chimney sweep clean and inspect your appliance at least once a year. More frequent cleanings may be required based on the type of wood burned, the type of appliance, and the frequency of use. In general, an older, uncertified woodstove, or any appliance used frequently, will require more than one cleaning per year.
The first indication of a chimney fire is usually the noise – a roaring sound that grows louder as the fire’s intensity increases. Clouds of black smoke and sparks will be seen exiting the top of the chimney; in severe fires, flames can extend several feet above the chimney.
In case of a chimney fire, call the fire department immediately and alert others in the house to evacuate. If it’s safe to do so, close the appliance’s dampers and/or the primary air inlet controls, limiting the fire’s air supply and reducing its intensity. If there’s a barometric damper in the chimney connector, plug or close the opening in the barometric damper.
If possible, wet down the roof and other outside combustibles to prevent fires ignited by shooting sparks and flames. Closely monitor all combustible surfaces near the chimney. During severe chimney fires, these surfaces can become hot enough to ignite.
After a chimney fire, get the chimney inspected by a professional chimney sweep or woodstove/fireplace installer.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District urges residents to have their fireplaces or chimneys cleaned and inspected for damage that might have occurred in the past heating season, and to get damages repaired right away. Engage a local certified chimney professional.
Visit www.eccfpd.org and click on the Fire Prevention link for other fire- related information.
Next prevention subject: Candles can lift our spirits – and result in disaster.