Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chimney Fire

Got a call last night from a friend of mine. He had a chimney fire and wanted to know that to do. I told him to use a fire extinguisher up the clean out door. Then I told him to squirt a tiny bit of water up the chimney. The idea is that steam rising up the chimney will put the fire out. At that point I told him to call the Fire Department.

This not the general order in which to deal with a chimney fire. Usually step one is to call the Fire Department. My friend lives in a rural area with a volunteer Fire Department and they can take some time to get there. Also, he has an extremely well built ceramic chimney that could have probably survived a chimney fire if nothing was done at all. Most chimneys will suffer damage from the intense heat of a chimney fire.

I was a bit surprised that he had chimney fire. The guy's been burning wood for years and knows how to do it safely. With his really good new chimney, I didn't expect a problem. The chimney fire was caused by the house not being completely insulated. The downstairs is, but not the upstairs.

With the upstairs unheated, the outside of the chimney was cold for a about 24 feet instead of the 4 feet or so that sticks out past the roof. That long cool chimney caused the smoke to condense on the inside. Eventually, sparks set the condensed creosote on fire. The solution is to finish insulating the upstairs. That job just got moved up in priority.

The next day, he had a guy coming over to clean the chimney. No doubt from now on he'll keep a closer watch on it. That's done by looking up the chimney from the clean our door using a mirror.

Having a couple fire extinguishers when out in the country is a very good idea. I've got a couple that I keep handy. I also have a long ladders and a chimney brush. If you a going to burn wood, you've got to keep your chimney clean.



  1. About 25 years ago I had a chimney fire, my first and hopefully last. I was new to wood burning and without guidance from others who used wood I learned much the hard way. I remember that day well, a nice fire was burning in the fireplace but all of a sudden I heard a strange sound coming from it. Kind of sounded like a jet engine or a noticeable muffled roaring sound. I went outside to look at the chimney to see if something weird was going on. Holy Cow! I had 2 foot flames coming out of the top of it. Fortunately I had a ladder and a garden hose close by. I got on the roof with the hose and started hosing water down the chimney; it went out in a couple minutes. I was a very frightening moment and quite a water mess inside, probably 20 gallons on the floor! Since then I have my chimney cleaned every year along with having the A/C Heat Pump serviced.

  2. I never thought about an un-insulated area allowing the sootsmoke to condense. Something to keep in mind. Thanks for the info.

  3. for those living afterwards, investing in cable and cleaning brush(s) be a wise one.

    so would be extra replacement pipe and furnace cement.