Keep the Fire You Want from Starting One You Don’t
Chimney fires don’t have to happen.
Here are some ways to avoid them:
- Have your chimney inspected annually by a qualified professional and cleaned when necessary.
- Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than hard wood versus soft wood considerations)
- Build smaller, hotter fires that burn more completely and produce less smoke.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or Christmas trees; these can spark a chimney fire.
- Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures where wood stoves are in use, so you can adjust burning practices as needed.
- Inspect and clean catalytic combustors on a regular basis, where applicable
What to Do if You Have a Chimney Fire.
If you realize a chimney fire is occurring, follow these steps:
- Get everyone out of the house, including yourself.
- Call the fire department.
If you can do so without risk to yourself, these additional steps may help save your home. Remember, however, that homes are replaceable, lives are not:
- Close the glass doors on the fireplace.
- Close the inlets on the wood stove.
For more chimney safety tips, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America
The Chimney Safety Institute of America cautions the public that there’s a growing fire and carbon monoxide poisoning danger that could result in unnecessary deaths, injuries or property damage – the obstruction or improper venting of clothes dryer exhaust ducts.
To combat dryer fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, the CSIA recommends that homeowners have clothes dryer exhaust ducts professionally inspected annually – and maintained as necessary.
CSIA points out that clothes dryers have historically either been located in basements or on the main floor of a house and generally within a short distance from an outside wall. Because of these logistics, the danger of lint plugging the exhaust duct has been minimal.
But in today’s complex and technologically sophisticated homes, many clothes dryers could be located in the inner core of the house in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and even in hall closets. These new locations mean dryers need to be vented longer distances and sometimes even with sharp turns and bends to accommodate the structure of the home. These complicated systems make exhaust ducts harder to reach and also create more places where lint can collect and pile up. Because lint is incredibly flammable it poses a fire risk.
The availability of natural gas clothes dryers is another reason why dryer exhaust duct maintenance is necessary. If a gas clothes dryer is not properly vented, it can cause carbon monoxide to be forced back into the home and that can be deadly.
In addition to lint obstructions or improper venting, bird’s nests or rodents and bug infestations can also plug up a vent causing potential fire hazards or carbon monoxide poisonings. Symptoms of a clogged clothes dryer exhaust duct include incomplete drying of clothes at normal temperatures and very hot dryer temperatures.
CSIA recommends that clothes dryer exhaust duct inspections be performed by CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Duct Technicians. We have been formally tested in the proper inspection and maintenance of clothes dryer exhaust ducts by CSIA. When we inspect a clothes dryer exhaust duct, we check to make sure there are no obstructions and if the installation is correct. We also verify that the correct type of vent is in use. For example, homes with plastic exhaust ducts are generally upgraded to metal exhaust ducts.
For more information, see The Chimney Safety Institute of America.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)’s 211 (Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances) is the standard upon which CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps base their services. This new standard now classifies chimney and venting system inspections into three levels—Level I, Level II or Level III. Each level of inspection has a specific scope of work and specific criteria.
Level I Inspection
This inspection is recommended when the chimney and venting system is easily accessible and when the homeowner is planning to maintain its current use. In general, this the level of inspection performed in most homes. In a Level I inspection a certified chimney sweep verifies that the chimney structure is sound and that the chimney is free of obstructions and combustible deposits, such as creosote.
Level II Inspection
The addition of a new home heating appliance or a change in the type of fuel a homeowner is burning requires a Level II inspection. This inspection level is also required upon the sale or transfer of a property or after an operating malfunction or external event that is likely to have caused damage to the chimney. The scope of a Level II inspection includes that of the Level I inspection plus the inspection of accessible portions of the attics, crawl spaces and basements. It may also include a performance test such as a smoke test or a pressure test and possibly an interior chimney video inspection if recommended by the certified chimney sweep.
Level III Inspection
When a Level I or Level II inspection suggests a hidden hazard and the evaluation cannot be performed without access to concealed areas, a Level III inspection is recommended. This type of inspection confirms the proper construction and condition of concealed portions of the chimney structure and the flue. Level III inspections are generally necessary when investigating an incident that has caused damage to a chimney or building, or where a hazard is detected and suspected.
Both the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fire Protection Association recommend yearly chimney inspections to help prevent fire and carbon monoxide poisonings.