Friday, February 22, 2008

Chimney fire

Heating with wood is more complicated than I realized. This morning, our basement started to fill up with smoke. The chimney that goes from the stove to the ceiling had smoke leaking from the joints -- I thought. My husband said it was the chimney itself that was smoking, because it was so hot, the paint was burning off. Not sure, since I got out of there as quickly as possible and starting opening windows on the first floor.

My husband closed the vent, and within a few minutes, it appeared that the fire had stopped. I am certainly glad that we have a wood stove instead of a fireplace because a fireplace chimney would be hidden from view. Also, I'm not sure how you would stop a chimney fire if you couldn't close the vent and cut off most of the air from the chimney.

The wood stove has only been in for two months, so having a chimney fire is quite a surprise to me. I thought people got their chimneys cleaned once a year. My husband said that maybe we need to have ours cleaned more often since we're using it constantly. I guess it's time to do some more research. Anyone have any suggestions?


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I can't imagine having a chimney fire within two months of installing your woodstove! Are you burning dry wood? Something would have to be producing a LOT of creosote to have a build-up that quickly. One thing that is important is to let the fire burn hotly for awhile a couple times a day. My husband had to remind me to do this, because I tend to keep it at a slow, less-wood-hungry setting when we are burning 24/7.

Tammy said...

I agree with Michelle, I don't think it could have been a chimney fire that soon, since creosote buildup is what causes the chimney fires. I heat entirely with wood and have had one chimney fire and one 'near miss'. It's not something you forget. However what might have happened is as your husband suggested. If the pipes are new then if they got overly hot they would burn off the coating (not sure that is the right word). It's usually a black oily smoke and smells really bad. Just a couple of ideas to think about: burn only well seasoned wood (at least a year), oak is the best, make sure you burn the fire hot at least part of the day. Green wood and keeping the fire damped down are the two biggest culprits of creosote buildup. Also, there are products to use to help reduce buildup. I burn about one of these 'logs' in my woodstove every six weeks or so. They are simply called 'chimney cleaning logs' and help soften and reduce creosote so it turns to ash when burned in the stove. You can get them at farm supplies or places like Lowes. Also as you use your stove more and more, it would be a good idea to keep something like a "Chimfex' fire suppressant stick on hand. These are made to toss in a stove if you have a chimney fire. I've never had to use mine, but came pretty close a few weeks back! Both of these products are a bit pricey at $11 to $15 each, but now is a good time to get them as they are on clearance at some stores. If stored in a dry area they will keep forever. However they are well worth the money and keep things a bit safer. Good luck with yours. You can't beat wood burning heat, even though it does have its own set of problems. I just discovered your blog, so am going back to the beginning! Tammy


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