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Chimney Fires

This past month the Russell Fire Department has been dispatched to three chimney fires, an alarming trend that we are obviously not happy to see. Over the last few years we have noticed a steady decrease in the number of chimney fires, this is likely due to many people choosing to convert wood burning stoves to gas. However there are still a good number of local people who choose to use wood to heat their homes, unfortunately it seems that many of these same people may be neglecting to maintain their wood burning appliances or are not burning appropriate wood.


Yearly cleaning of the chimney is a must; build-up of creosote, animal infestations and nesting material can all be found in a chimney that has sat unused for the summer months, and all of these things can lead to a chimney fire. Many people choose to try and clean their chimneys themselves with a weighted brush that can be bought at most hardware stores, we strongly suggest that you have a WETT certified technician both clean and inspect your chimney and wood stove yearly. Having a clean chimney is one matter but if the chimney is damaged, heat and fire can easily spread to the building structure. WETT certified companies are also authorized to certify fireplace and woodstove installations when requested by insurance companies. This service is not done by fire departments or municipal building inspectors.


Another important factor for safe burning is choosing the right type of wood and making sure it is sufficiently dry. Burning softwoods or wet wood will cause creosote to rapidly build up within the chimney, once again risking a chimney fire. Wet wood will also not burn as efficiently as properly seasoned wood causing you to spend more to heat and it will also produce more polluting emissions. Burning of trash or scrap wood should never be done in a wood burning stove or fireplace, theses devices are not designed for this use and doing so can result in the starting of a chimney fire or excessively hot fire which could spread outside the hearth or damage the chimney.


If you use wood to heat your home or have a wood burning device that you intend to use and havenít had it cleaned and inspected this year, we strongly advise you do so immediately. So far we have been very fortunate that a home hasnít been lost or excessively damaged by any of the chimney fires this year, however if people continue to gamble with their safety it is only a matter of time before we see a chimney fire get out of hand.



Published in the Villager newspaper January 26, 2011


No part of this article can be reprinted or reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of The Russell Fire Department's Public Education Division.

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