Chimney fires are not necessary when you take the proper precautions. When heating with wood one of the most important safety precautions to take is to keep creosote build-up from occurring in the chimney/stove pipe.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that creosote is the likely cause of one-fourth of all home heating fires in the United States - 25,000 fires last year alone.
So, how does that happen?
When you burn unseasoned (inadequately dried) fire wood in a stove the moisture in the wood turns into a vapor. This vapor cools as it ascends up the stove pipe. As it cools it starts to collect or condense on the inside of the chimney/stove pipe forming a creosote build-up.
Under the right conditions the creosote can ignite creating what is called a “chimney fire”. A chimney fire can get as hot as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. As the fire starts to burn in the chimney/stove pipe it requires more and more oxygen. As it draws air through every crack and crevice in the stove it turns into a full blown chimney fire. Have you ever heard a chimney fire? I've heard it described as a roaring sound that resembles a freight train. And of course you can see fire shooting out the top of the chimney/stove pipe. It can be very difficult to extinguish. And if it gets out of control, a chimney fire can cause your home to burn to the ground.
How do we remove the creosote?
One must be diligent in keeping the chimney/stove pipe brushed out. Also burn only well seasoned firewood. A friend of mine who is a fire chief told me that they deal with many chimney fire calls each fall. What happens is people fire up their stoves in the fall without first cleaning out their stove pipes. People fail to clean out their chimneys/stove pipes during the summer in preparation for the winter and end up with a fire.
So saver yourself the heartache of loosing a home and clean out your stove pipe! Here is a video clip of how to clean out a chimney:
Chimfex Fire Suppression Stick
My fire chief friend also told me that one of the best ways to extinguish a chimney fire is by using a Chimfex fire suppression stick. He said they keep a box of these on the fire trucks at all times. The Chimfex stick looks like a typical emergency road flair and is ignited in a similar manner. Once you have determined that a chimney fire has started, ignite the Chimfex stick, close all air intakes into the stove and open the damper (if there is one). Then open the door to the firebox of the stove and throw the ignited Chimfex stick into the firebox. Don’t throw it onto the fire but off to the side. Close the door tightly.
The ignited Chimfex stick gives off oxygen starving fumes. The fumes head up the chimney/stove pipe to where the fire is and will suffocate the fire in an average of 22 seconds. Having one or two of these fire suppressing sticks on hand in your home is almost like having a fire truck sitting in your driveway 24/7. You can order Chimfex sticks here with free shipping on Amazon Prime (the shipping for these things is expensive) and you'll help support our blog (without it costing you a penny!).
Fire Prevention Stratigies
When living in a rural area, it is especially important to prevent a home fire, since it could take a while for the fire department to arrive. In our DVD Dealing With Fire On The Homestead, a rural fire chief walks you through the important precautions you need to know about. In addition, anyone who heats with wood should be aware of several common sense rules that make a chimney fire all but obsolete. But what if the unthinkable happens and you have a fire? What do you do? You'll learn straight from the fire chief's mouth what your best course of action is. Even wildland fires are covered in this important DVD.