Chimney Fire Shows Importance of Chimney Inspections

A new homeowner in West Pelzer had a scare on Christmas Day when his house nearly burned down.

Channel 4, WYFF has coverage of the story.

This story remind viewers that it is important to have your chimney regularly inspected by a professional.

Here are a few other points to be gleaned from this story.

Home inspectors do not inspect the chimney. If you buy a new home, do not assume that the fireplace is suitable for use. The home inspector may have mentioned a problem or two about the fireplace or chimney, but most home inspectors are not qualified to inspect fireplaces or chimneys. Good home inspectors will recommend a professional chimney inspection.

By looking at the story it is clear that this chimney had an improperly installed wood burning insert in the fireplace. This type of installation is called a “Slammer,” because the stove is slammed into the fireplace opening and considered ready for use. A fireplace chimney is not designed to vent a wood stove, and installing a stove in this manner is one of the most dangerous things that can be done to a fireplace.

From the design of the stove, it has likely been resident in the fireplace since the early 1980′s. The chimney has likely experienced several hostile flue fires during that time, causing the cracks in the chimney that are cited as the cause of the fire.

The fire chief points out that burning green or wet wood causes creosote buildup and recommends burning only dry wood. He is correct that dry wood will burn more completely than wet wood, but significant creosote accumulation can result from burning dry wood. There are a number of variables that determine creosote buildup, from flue temperature to the way the fire is built. Burning dry wood in a slammer insert will still result in a hazardous accumulation of creosote.

All of these problems would have been revealed with a simple Level 1 Chimney Inspection. A Level 2 inspection, which is recommended when a house changes ownership, would certainly have revealed cracks in the chimney and flue liner.

If your chimney has not been inspected recently, call your local CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to schedule an inspection.

If you’re in Upstate South Carolina, give us a call. We’ll go over your chimney system in detail and document everything with pictures. Using those pictures, we’ll take the time to explain your chimney system and any problems it may have. The peace of mind offered by a chimney inspection is worth far more than you’ll pay for it.

By David Kline | Tagged with: Tags: , , |