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For those of you lucky enough to have wood burning stoves and/or fireplaces in your homes to help offset heating costs, when was the last time you had your chimney inspected?  If not maintained properly, there can be some serious consequences from using an unsafe chimney.

Hazardous gases and smoke exit your home through the chimney.  As the smoke rises through the chimney it cools, causing water, carbon, and volatiles to condense on the interior surfaces of the chimney flue. The black oily residue that builds up is referred to as creosote.

If a chimney is not regularly cleaned, creosote could potentially catch on fire.  When a chimney is cleaned and inspected regularly, you are helping to ensure there is a clear pathway for those gasses and heat to escape.

Please keep the following tips in mind to help prevent chimney fires:

  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a licensed chimney professional. A chimney professional will make sure your chimney is structurally sound, will remove creosote buildup and any other debris (such as animal nests).
  • Burn only cured wood – cardboard, trash, or other objects can burn very quickly and the flames can get out of control.
  • Keep your fireplace doors opened or cracked when burning a fire. Restricting the air supply can cause a buildup of creosote.
  • Stay on the lookout for signs of chimney fires, such as dense smoke and a loud rumbling noise (often compared to a freight train). If you think you have a chimney fire, get everyone safely out of your home and call the fire department immediately.
  • Remember that some chimney fires are slow-burning and may not make loud noises or have lots of smoke. These can cause damage to your home as well, while also weakening the structure of your chimney.

Chimney fires often lead to house fires. It’s important to follow safe fire-burning practices and keep regular maintenance on your chimney.  This is also a great time to check on your fire extinguisher, both location and expiration date, as well as ensure that all smoke detectors in your home are in operable working condition.