By DIANE DIERKS
Chimney fires could be on the rise this year in relation to climbing fuel prices. According to Brazil City Fire Chief Toby Archer, people looking for alternative means of fuel to heat their homes may use old fireplaces that have been out of service for years. It is extremely important to have these chimneys inspected before attempting to start a fire.
Fire is not the only risk of burning alternative fuels. Most heating appliances, including wood burners and gas, oil and coal furnaces, use the chimney to carry toxic gases, including carbon monoxide, out of the home. An annual chimney inspection can prevent carbon monoxide leaks from occurring in the first place.
Fire Chief Toby Archer commented that carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms should be certified by Underwriters Laboratories. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends placing carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms on every level of the home and in all sleeping areas. Avoid placing detectors in dead space where ceilings and walls meet.
Preventing creosote build-up prevents fires. Cleanchimney.com reports that burning unseasoned wood, restricting air supply and abnormally cool chimney temperatures contribute to creosote formation. Getting an annual chimney inspection is the best way to monitor creosote levels. Melissa Heeke, communications director for the Chimney Safety Institute, said that once the creosote deposits accumulate to 1/4 inch thickness, the chimney will require cleaning.
It is possible for chimney fires to burn undetected. Fire Chief Toby Archer has experienced situations where people outside the home report the chimney fire, while occupants inside are still unaware.
Chimney sweeps look for these signs of undetected fires: cracks in the exterior masonry, damaged roofing material, rainbow-colored puffy creosote, cracked or collapsed flue tiles, creosote flakes found on ground or roof and smoke that escapes through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners, according to cleanchimney.com.
The U.S Fire Administration list chimneys as the leading cause of residential fires in rural areas. The good news - almost all chimney fires are preventable with proper safety and maintenance. If a fire does occur, get everyone out of the house, including yourself, and call 911.
On the web: www.csia.org