HOW TO AVOID CHIMNEY FIRES THIS SEASON
Each year the millions of dollars in property damage, due to chimney fires, is unnecessary! Every year hundreds of people are killed or injured due to chimney fires! You can help prevent this by doing the following:
Make sure that your chimney is cleaned when 1/4" of creosote has accumulated on the flue walls or smoke chamber. Call a chimney professional to take care of this for you. He/she will be able to spot problems that you will not. ALL wood creates creosote - no matter how dry or hard it is. It is a myth that well-seasoned wood does not create creosote - it just produces LESS than wet or soft wood. In order to make sure you are burning dry wood - have it cut and delivered to you in July each year. Keep wood off of the ground and covered if possible.
Do NOT install a wood-burning stove insert directly to your existing masonry chimney without installing a properly sized liner and boot. Masonry flues are often TOO LARGE to draw properly for a wood stove because they are sized for a fireplace. Excessive creosote accumulation is usually the result. Creosote is highly flammable, and GLAZED (stage 3) creosote, usually associated with the use of an insert, is the most flammable! Make sure that your installer puts in a correctly sized liner along with your stove. Note: The stove manufacturer will state what type and size liner should be used in their instructions. A professional should do the installation.
Glazed creosote CANNOT be removed by regular brushing! In fact, many sweeps (unfortunately) and homeowners do not know what glazed creosote looks like. Glazed creosote is hard, shiny, and looks like tar. It can coat your flue walls so that it actually looks like it is a part of the flue and belongs there - until it ignites and you have a chimney fire! Glazed creosote must be removed by a process called "Roto-Cleaning". Creosote can catch on fire if a bird's nest or newspaper or other flammable item is nearby and brings flame into a glazed area.
If your chimney is damaged, it could be very unsafe to use. Cracks in tile liners, voids in the masonry joints between the liners, and deteriorated or damaged smoke chambers are things that a professional Chimney Sweep looks for during a sweeping and inspection. If you have offsets (turns) in your flue or if you have flue that is more than 8 feet in length, a visual inspection will NOT reveal any hidden damages. This is when a video camera such as a Chim-Scan is necessary to view and document any damages.
After a flue fire, lightning strike, nearby explosion or other damage do NOT use your chimney until a qualified chimney professional has evaluated it! Firemen, mechanical engineers and home inspectors are NOT trained in this area in their normal course of study and are not qualified to give you an opinion-- unless they have specifically received training on their own outside of their regular curriculum.