Most homeowners in Southern California have never had their chimney swept or inspected.
- What is a chimney fire?
- What causes them?
- How can you prevent a chimney fire?
When purchasing a home in Southern California, a common buyer’s prerequisite is a fireplace. This requirement is usually not needed to furnish heat but rather to supply the warm ambiance of a crackling fire. There is something about a fire that has a soothing effect on the soul.
As the fire burns, deposits from the fuel (wood is most common is Southern California) collect on the back wall of the fireplace and the flue (the pipe that carries the smoke out). This is your basic soot – dull, dusty black.
After about one cord of wood, or three to four years of occasional use, the soot needs to be removed. When the soot is allowed to build up, a concentrated form of unborn fuel is created called creosote. This stuff is nasty. When looked at with a flashlight, it is greasy and shiny looking.
Creosote causes chimney fires, but a professional chimney sweeping can remove it. A chimney fire burns at 2,000 degrees once it gets started. Remember, concentrated fuel equals concentrated fire. When a fire gets started, the structure of the fireplace and flue act as a blast furnace, and they literally rumble, shake and howl as if a freight train has come to visit at full speed. All the while, the top of the flue is sporting a 4-foot flame spewing red-hot creosote on the roof. this, by the way, is a little rough on shake shingle roofs, creating a fire much larger than you had intended.