When is the last time you had your fireplace cleaned? According to Statistics Canada, nearly 15% of Canadian fires are caused by heating equipment in the home, primarily the wood burning fireplace. These fires can be fatal and lead to significant property damage. When the primary causes are identified, chimney fires are easily prevented by taking the necessary precautions.
How do Chimney Fires Work?
The main cause of chimney fires is the accumulation of creosote, an oily liquid that forms when wood or coal is burned. The substance is highly flammable, so it easily catches fire when a fireplace is in use. There are two main types of chimney fires:
- Free burning
- Slow burning
Free burning is the more recognizable of the two, as it is characterized by loud, roaring noises and flames that escape the top of the chimney. Slow burning fires are more difficult to detect because the fire burns slowly at extremely high temperatures, causing serious structural damage. In the event of a chimney fire, immediately contact your local fire department. Chimney fires are very dangerous and can easily spread to other parts of the home.
There are several precautions to take that reduce the chances of a chimney fire occurring. Firstly, only burn small amounts of dry wood. Damp wood leads to incomplete combustions and results in increased creosote build-up. Because there is a higher level of moisture in the wood, more heat is used to evaporate it, which results in a reduced temperature. Wood is considered to be dry once it has aged for at least six months. Due to the moisture, slow-burning fires also lead to more creosote build-up, as well.
In addition to taking precautionary measures, having your fireplace professionally cleaned is crucial. You should have it inspected at least once a year, or as otherwise indicated by your insurance company requirements.
Having your fireplace inspected and cleaned often reduces the chances of a chimney fire. If the creosote build-up is significant, it can block deadly carbon monoxide gases from exiting the home. Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it is odourless in its natural form and is undetectable; this is why natural gas companies have added a distinct “rotten eggs” smell, so people can immediately notice if there is a gas leak. To stay on the side of caution, consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home so you are aware of the poisonous gas right away.
Chimney cleaning works by starting at the top of the chimney and ending at the base. A soot vacuum is often used to remove ash particles that have built up through use. Because a chimney-cleaning professional tends to the entire chimney, they are able to quickly identify issues that will turn into costly repairs in the future. The best time of year to conduct the cleaning is at the beginning of fall. The cleaning takes anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the state of your chimney.
Igne Ferro is Canada’s leading fireplace supplier, developer, and design specialist. We help guide you through the design, installation, and maintenance processes to ensure the utmost satisfaction with your dream fireplace. To learn more about our products and services, call 416-239-3556 today!