Many homeowners enjoy building a fire in the fireplace when the weather gets cooler. While the fire is a cozy supplemental heat source, it’s essential to be aware of the dangers of a chimney fire. Fire can occur in the chimney when leaves, pine needles, creosote, or debris ignite from the embers of the flames below. Because chimney fires are not easy to detect, they can grow out of control and become very destructive. Keep your family and home safe this winter with these tips to help prevent a chimney fire.
1. Schedule an Annual Chimney Inspection to Prevent a Fire
A regular chimney inspection by a certified professional is the best way to verify the structure of the chimney is in great shape. A professional will look for cracks in the mortar and broken or damaged bricks. They will also assess the condition of the flue to determine if it’s safe for burning a fire.
2. Prevent a Chimney Fire: Hire a Chimney Sweep
Hire a trained chimney sweep to clean the chimney at least once a year. They will remove soot, animal nests, leaves, and debris. If you use your fireplace frequently, you may need to clean it more often. While a homeowner can clean the chimney, it is best to find an experienced professional. A pro has all the tools, equipment, and training necessary to clean the chimney quickly and safely.
3. Use Dry, Seasoned Firewood
Freshly cut or “green” wood has a high moisture content, and burning it can cause a creosote build-up in your chimney. Dry, seasoned hardwoods, like maple, ash, oak, and birch, are the best types of wood to use in your fireplace.
4. Prevent a Chimney Fire: Don’t Burn Garbage
Burning trash, like cardboard boxes and old mail, in the fireplace contributes to a build-up of creosote in your chimney. If a piece of garbage ignites and floats up the chimney, it could ignite the creosote and start a fire. Floating embers might also land on the roof and ignite the materials.
5. Install a Chimney Cap
A chimney cap is a metal screen installed over the chimney’s opening. It keeps leaves from falling into the chimney and blocks animals from nesting there. The cap will also help to prevent sparks from escaping through the top of your chimney and igniting nearby branches or the roofing material.
6. Don’t Leave the Fire Unattended
When going to bed or leaving the house, always extinguish the flames completely. If you need to step away for a few minutes, have another adult present to tend the fire.
7. Install Smoke Alarms in the Home
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. While a smoke detector will not prevent a chimney fire, it will alert you and your family to fire danger. Test each device every month and replace the batteries twice each year.
8. Call 911
If a fire breaks out, leave the house and call 911 immediately. Make sure every family member understands how to dial 911 and when to use the number.
Following these simple tips, you will help prevent a dangerous and potentially destructive chimney fire in your home.