Any dwelling fire can be disastrous, but chimney fires can be a different beast altogether.
They are extremely difficult to control. Whilst the aesthetic qualities and comforting warmth of a wooden fireplace can be a real treat in the winter, they come at the cost of having a severe fire hazard in your home. Whenever there is an issue around fire safety, the key aspects in dealing with it are:
– assessing the risks
– setting up preventative measures
– having extinguishing methods to hand in case a fire breaks out
Below, LifeSafe has compiled information and tips for anybody who wants to know how to put out a chimney fire.
How Chimney Fires Break Out
Like all fires, there are several reasons why a chimney might catch ablaze. Identifying these well in advance will help you to set up preventions. One of the biggest causes is unclean chimneys, which is the result of people not undertaking proper maintenance. Failing to do so can lead to a build-up of creosote, which is a tar-like substance that can be highly combustible if there is a large quantity. As well as failing to maintain the chimney, things like a lower temperature in the flute, or burning wood that isn’t entirely dried or seasoned, can also contribute to a creosote build-up.
While this is the most common cause of chimney fires, there are other factors too. If you are using a wood stove, then allowing this to smoulder unsupervised for hours or, in some cases, overnight, can be a terrible idea. Even if they don’t catch fire, they’ll leave a lot of combustible material behind that could. Additionally, if the various parts of the chimney aren’t sized properly, a malfunction could occur that might lead to a blaze.
Preventative Measures to Take
As we’ve mentioned, ensuring you get your chimney regularly swept is absolutely essential, but this varies depending on what type you have. Those that use oil and gas should be cleaned once a year, so too smokeless coals, but they may require more. If you’re using bituminous coal, then the chimney should be attended to twice a year. Finally, wood leaves the most residue, so these should be cleaned at least four times a year. We would recommend doing this in the summer when the flute is unlikely to be used, as this gives you plenty of time to identify any problems.
Risk assessments are a crucial part of general fire safety, and chimneys are no different. You want to identify any hazards in the house, as well as ensuring you are properly equipped, should the worst happen. The most important thing to check is also the most basic, but it’s something that people forget all the time; your smoke alarms. First, make sure there is enough, ideally one on each floor, then see that they all have full batteries and are functioning perfectly.
Remember, they only need to fail once, and the damage is done. Ensure you have some form of extinguishing solution on hand too, even if it’s as simple as a bucket of sand, although you should aim for something better.
You may doubt your ability to carry out a risk assessment, but it’s very simple to do. However, you can organise a safety check with a private company, or for free from your local fire service, providing you meet the relevant criteria. If you’re after even more information, the Cheshire Fire Service has a comprehensive guide on the various governmental regulations in place for chimney fires, as well as a handy video demonstrating some of the points we’ve made here.
Dealing With the Fire
One of the most dangerous aspects of a chimney fire is that they can remain undetectable even when alight. Detecting it is the first step. The most obvious sign you’re likely to notice is the noise, which is a loud roar akin to that of a low flying plane.
If you can see firework-like embers shooting from the top or any kind of spark, this is also an indication and you may smell smoke or something similar too. Once you’ve detected that there is a fire, you can then respond.
If you’re tempted to throw a bucket of water over it don’t, as you’ll risk making the problem worse and it would be ineffectual anyway. Before you attempt to do anything, contact the emergency services.
Unlike many household fires, those involving the chimney are immensely difficult to put out, so it is essential to contact the relevant authorities. As the fire can be located across the entire flute, it may require a solution for both the top and bottom, which is more than you do alone. After you’ve contacted them, leave the house immediately and it’s a good idea to have an escape plan in place for this situation. Keep any family members well away and do no return to the site until it has been dealt with.
Try A Better Extinguisher
While it is best to wait for emergency services in the event of a chimney fire, you should also have an effective extinguishing solution to hand to help battle against the blaze if necessary and any smaller ones that break out as a result.
For situations like this, LifeSafe has created the Stay Safe 5-in-1 Fire Extinguisher, the smallest aerosol extinguisher out there. There is only 200ml of liquid per bottle and no mechanical parts either, so you won’t run into any malfunction issues. The formula is completely eco-friendly too, with no toxic residue to clean up either. If this has piqued your interest, head on over to our homepage for additional information, plus video demonstrations and more.