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.
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