Every fireplace owner knows how cozy and enjoyable an evening by the fireplace can be. Yet, hearing stories about chimney fires and seeing the damages that follow them can make anyone feel uneasy as they try to finish off their burning season.

Well, as both a retired firefighter and a CSIA Master certified chimney sweep, you can bet fire safety is something I take seriously here at Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel County. If you ask me, education is an important part of preventing accidents from occurring in the first place, which is why we’re here to ensure homeowners know it all.

house on fire

Learn more about the causes of chimney fires and how to avoid them by reading below. And if you have any further questions, please reach out! Customer safety is our priority, and we’d be happy to help.

Misuse & Neglect: The 2 Biggest Causes of Chimney Fires

Both the CSIA and the NFPA (along with countless other reputable organizations and companies in the industry) recommend annual chimney inspections. It’s easy to assume a fireplace that ran fine the year before will continue doing so, but there could be lots of stuff under the surface that just isn’t up to par.

Really, the only way to know for sure if you’re in need of repairs, maintenance, or a sweeping is to get a professional inspection completed. Failing to do this is one of the biggest reasons chimney fires end up occurring.

What happens when care is avoided? Well, putting off a professional sweeping gives creosote the chance to accumulate. Creosote is a dark substance that can vary in form, but is always flammable. There’s no way to avoid it altogether, but by getting a pro in to regularly remove it, you’ll reduce your chances of experiencing a chimney fire significantly.

Keep in mind, too, that not all flue liners are created equal. The flue size is based on the size of the firebox, so the size of your flue impacts the amount of creosote accumulation. The more it builds, the smaller that opening becomes, and soon the exhaust rate of your flue gases is cut down significantly.

Not only does this cause smoke to back up into your home, but it encourages that creosote to bubble and emit a vapor that will eventually ignite and send flames through the chimney. In the end, investing in annual care and any necessary preventive maintenance is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to avoid those big, expensive fire-related damages.

And What About Misuse?

So, we’ve covered neglect, but how does one misuse their fireplace? These are the cases that often leave homeowners scratching their heads, wondering how their fireplace that is regularly cleaned ended up getting damaged by a chimney fire anyway.

In these cases, we typically find that people were burning things in their fireplace that they shouldn’t have. Especially over the holidays, many find it all too easy to toss their wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, paper plates, styrofoam, and similar materials into the fireplace for quick clean-up. Unfortunately, this does a lot of harm to your system.

The problem with these materials is that they burn quicker, hotter fires that eventually turn into fireballs in your flue. Any creosote that’s in your flue will catch on fire and within a matter of seconds you’ll have some major damages throughout your liner. And if those flames aren’t controlled fast enough, they could spread throughout your home!

If I’ve Had a Chimney Fire, I’ll Know… Right?

Believe it or not, most chimney fires occur without the homeowners even realizing it. They typically burn slowly and quietly, which means you could be using a fireplace that has experienced extensive damage without even knowing it – that’s an unsettling thought!

Again, this is why those annual inspections are so vital to the safety of our customers. If you have yet to schedule yours, please get it booked with our team today.

What Should I Do if I’ve Had a Chimney Fire?

If you are experiencing a chimney fire, the first thing to do is get out of your home and call for help. The sooner you act, the quicker the fire trucks will arrive and the less damage you are likely to face.

After the flames are out and the situation is under control, it’s time to call in the chimney sweeps. Your chimney professional will need to perform a level 2 chimney inspection, which means they’ll snake camera equipment up the flue and determine what damages have occurred.

And remember – after an event like this, you need someone who really knows their stuff, so make sure the crew you are calling is certified chimney specialist with the CSIA, experienced in the field, and has a good reputation in your area.

Avoiding Chimney Fires

So, we covered two big reasons chimney fires occur – improper use and skipping that annual inspection. But how can they be avoided altogether? Here are some tips:

  • Burn only dry wood that has been seasoned for at least 6 months. (Helpful tip: Purchase a moisture meter!)
  • Schedule a chimney inspection every single year.
  • If a sweeping is recommended, don’t put it off or use your fireplace until it’s completed
  • Invest in a chimney cap. This ensures no nesting materials, leaves, twigs, and similar items get stuck where they can easily catch on fire.
  • Encourage good airflow by opening the damper, warming up your flue, and burning hotter (faster-burning) fires.

We’re Dedicated to Keeping Our Customers Safer

On top of everything, make sure you have both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home – on every level and definitely outside of bedrooms. Check the batteries regularly, too, and be sure to replace them as needed.

Finally, find a chimney sweep you can rely on for the long haul. We’re certified with the CSIA and, the NFI and we have decades of experience in the field, so you can bet you’re in safe hands with us. Give Clean Sweep of Anne Arundel County a call today at 410-590-4800 or reach us online to book your appointment.