Chimney Fires: Preventable Danger

April 3, 2020

Summer is here so many of us are thinking about grilling out, caring for our lawns, and other summer-related activities, not chimney fires. However, now is a great time to address this preventable danger.


Most of the Midwest has experienced record-breaking low temperatures in the last few years, which means homeowners likely used their fireplaces even more than usual. Come fall, the winter will be a distant memory so the time to act is now! Keep reading to find out why inspecting, cleaning, and maintaining your chimney is crucial prior to the next fall and winter season.


Creosote is Combustible

Creosote and ash are what’s leftover after burning wood. Creosote is mostly tar and all three degrees are combustible. All working fireplaces and wood stoves have this dangerous condensate (liquid formed by condensation) because it forms inside of chimneys and flues while wood is being burned. Smoke traveling up your chimney and flue passes through relatively cooler surfaces, leaving this tarry deposit. A chimney fire caused by creosote can occur when an accumulated deposit is ignited by a hotter-than-usual fire down below. It can sound as loud and explosive as a freight train but the majority of chimney fires go undetected according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).


Clean Chimneys Don’t Catch Fire

That all being said, chimney fires are preventable and detectable. Follow the tips below to keep your family and home safe.


Chimney Fire Prevention

  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified, professional chimney sweep
  • Burning dry, seasoned wood helps reduce creosote buildup
  • Avoid lighting your fire with flammable liquids
  • Always check that the damper is open before igniting your fire
  • When done, don’t close the damper right away – wait until the fire is completely out and the ambers have cooled

PRO TIP: Learn how to hire a chimney sweep from the pros at the CSIA


Creosote Buildup Prevention

These tips tie directly in with the above but address creosote buildup specifically:

  • Keep the air supply unrestricted
  • Use seasoned wood
  • Avoid cooler than normal chimney temperatures


Chimney Fire Detection


A monitored smoke detector or CO alarm will allow your trusted security company to get the fire department to you while you’re in the middle of a crisis. At Per Mar, both are monitored 24/7 by highly trained professionals in our Monitoring Center. The procedures for each are clear-cut (see below).

Per Mar’s Fire Alarm & Carbon Monoxide (CO) Dispatch Instructions

  1. Call site.
  2. At the customer’s request, if there is no answer, or if an invalid password is given, dispatch the fire department.
  3. Notify responders on-call list.
  4. Re-notify fire department of responder’s name/ETA/car description.
  5. Make sure all zones are reset.

Don’t let your fireplace get the best of you. Have it professionally cleaned, maintained, and inspected at least once per year to avoid a potential disaster at home. Be sure to ask the company you are hiring to clean your chimney about their social distancing guidelines and make arrangements to keep your family safe. Contact us to learn more about monitored smoke alarms and CO detectors.