Did Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kick over a lantern to start the Great Fire of Chicago? More than likely not, but the anniversary of this fire marks the start of Fire Prevention Week. A yearly tradition since 1925, where fire departments across the nation, highlight the danger of fires and steps to prevent them.
Danger potentially lurks in your home’s chimney. As you move from outdoor barbecues, gatherings around a fire pit or nights on your deck to cozy evenings in front of the fire or wood stove, take the time to have your chimney inspected.
While you may love the look of your fireplace and chimney, its key role is to safely carry dangerous flue gases and smoke out of your home.
No matter how often you use your fireplace or whether it is gas or wood, having a professional chimney inspector check your fireplace can help prevent a fire caused by these common factors.
The inside liner of your chimney is known as the flue. This is designed to carry heat, toxic fumes, and smoke out of your house. Over time the flue can crack and deteriorate from heat and even water if it is not properly covered with a flue cap.
It is important to test to make sure that your damper opens and closes before you start that first crackling fire of the season. If it is not operating properly, it could stop smoke from rising up the flue or allow debris to fall into the fireplace.
Masonry chimneys (brick, masonry block, concrete block, cinder block, concrete or stone) can deteriorate and crack over time due to years of heating and varying weather temperatures. An inspection can ensure that your chimney is strong and structurally sound.
Creosote and Animal Nests
Over time creosote accumulates and can lead to a chimney fire. Additionally, animals may use your chimney as a nest and should be removed before your first fire.
Small cracks in the masonry and improperly installed flue caps can allow water to enter the chimney and accelerate the deterioration of the structure or break down the crown wash (top cement).
Dave Grune, Bedford Fire Chief states that each fall the Bedford Fire Department is called for a number chimney fires as residents light a fire for the first time. Fire Chief Grune adds that the number one cause of chimney fires is the buildup of creosote and that burning wet (green) wood is a major factor in this buildup. In addition to regular chimney inspections, the department suggests inspecting your heating system before turning it on for the first time of the season.
Still not convinced? Did you know that there are over 25,000 chimney fires each year in the US that are responsible for over 125 million dollars in property damage, as well as loss of life?
So, what can you do to prevent chimney fires? The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) recommends having a Level I inspection yearly and a Level II inspection on a regular basis. A Level I chimney inspection is a visual inspection that looks for obvious safety hazards. A Level II inspection is more in-depth and uses a specialized camera designed to attach to a chimney sweeping rod that sends video and pictures of the interior of the chimney. This allows the chimney inspector to review the photos looking for creosote buildup, debris, animals or any structural damage that could potentially cause a fire.
Hiring a professional inspect your chimney will give you peace of mind and allow you to enjoy those chilly winter evenings with family and friends in front of the fire.