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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Experts weigh in on chimney fires

Friday, February 9, 2007

On a cold, frigid day, you decide to light a fire to give your home some extra warmth. You select your favorite wood, add the kindling and make sure the flue is open.

Suddenly, you hear a roaring sound coming from the chimney and smoke fills the room. You run outside and find flames leaping from the chimney. You have a chimney fire.

With the cold temperatures and the below-zero wind chills, many homeowners have turned to their fireplaces to heat parts of their homes. But sometimes, homeowners don't realize the deadly danger lurking inside their fireplaces.

Already this year, local fire departments have either responded to or have received several calls about chimney fires. Greencastle, Reelsville and Madison fire departments have all responded to chimney fires during the month of January, while Roachdale Fire Department has responded to two only a couple days apart.

The most recent fire, which is still "under investigation," gutted a home in Heritage Lake early Wednesday morning.

Most chimney fires are started because there is a build-up of creosote along the flue walls. Creosote is "a dark brown or black flammable tar deposited especially from wood smoke on the walls of a chimney."

Local firefighters are reminding homeowners to have their chimneys cleaned and checked by a professional.

Jason King of Brush of Luck Chimney Service in Reelsville said that most homeowners have the mentality that if the chimney is working, then it's OK.

He also said that homeowners think their chimneys only need to be cleaned once a year, which is the "old school" way of thinking.

According to King, who has been in the chimney business for a total of 18 years, the lack of maintenance is the biggest contributing factor to chimney fires.

King told the BannerGraphic that homeowners should clean their chimneys after using three to four ricks of wood. King also suggested that homeowners should burn a hard, seasoned wood and allowing the fire to burn correctly by providing it with oxygen.

When asked what he thought about the creosote-sweeping logs that are available in many stores, King said he does not think they work very well. King said there are roughly 100 different chimney cleaning products available on the market today.

Even though he has not tested all the cleaning products, King believes that if homeowners use products like the creosote-cleaning logs, then they should use the product more frequently than what the label recommends.

According to cresotesweepinglogs.com, its cleaning logs should be used depending on the number of times the fireplace is used. If a homeowner only burns a fire on the weekend, then they should use one log per season. But if a homeowner continuously burns a fire, then they should use one log every two months.

Both Ace and Headley Hardware stores in Greencastle sell brands of creosote sweeping logs and other chimney cleaning products.

Randall Jones from Headley Hardware said they sell crystals called Soot Destroyer, which are more cost-efficient than the logs. According to Jones, homeowners should add a scoop of crystals to a hot fire and it should crystalize the creosote.

Pat McCune from Ace Hardware said they sell the sweeping logs and a one-shot soot stopper called Kwik-Shot by Rutland Fire Clay Company. According to McCune, homeowners toss the entire product into a fire for at least five minutes.

He also said that homeowners should use Kwik-Shots twice a week for the first month, and then once a week throughout the rest of the heating season.

Homeowners need to remember that their chimney might not always be working properly.

There might be some hidden dangers lurking on the chimney walls, waiting for the next time the fireplace is used.

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