'Tis the Season to Check Chimneys

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 1:30am

Two incidents involving suspected chimney fires within the past week prompt a reminder that before starting the roaring fire to ward off the winter chill, make certain your fireplace is clean, properly vented, and structurally sound.

Firefighters were called to a home on the City's west side last Wednesday after a homeowner extinguished a fire believed to have started from a buildup of creosote. In a second incident, a passerby saw sparks or embers coming out of the chimney and alerted the homeowner. There was no smoke released indoors, but the owner called 911.

Though damage was minimal in each of these calls, the National Fire Protection Association reports that heating equipment is involved in thousands of U.S. home structure fires each year, with chimneys and chimney connectors accounting for the largest share of fire incidents. In 2010, there were 14,830 reported creosote fires (26% of all home heating fires).

These tips from the Chimney Safety Institute of America outline the most common causes of chimney fires:

-Is your damper fully open? Everybody eventually forgets to open the damper. Many dampers also cease to fully open because of water damage or soot buildup behind them on the smoke shelf.
-Green or wet firewood. If your wood is not dry and well seasoned it makes more smoke than heat and there simply may not be enough heat for the chimney to work properly.
-Dirt! The gradual accumulation of soot can seriously affect the way your chimney performs. Thick layers of soot of course can physically restrict the flue so there is no longer enough free area to vent the fireplace properly. Birds and small animals also think your chimney looks like a hollow tree in which to set up housekeeping. Sweeps often find chimneys literally packed full of leaves, twigs and baby animals. The solution of course is a good cleaning and a chimney cap.

Other issues stem from the design of a chimney itself. So when you are having maintenance performed, a reliable chimney sweep can diagnose any design flaws that might cause a safety concern.


  • Lori Wirth(608) 266-5947