Chimney maintenance


Fire Chief’s Report

Ken Melnyk,
Fire Chief, Town of High Prairie

This is the time of pumpkin spice lattes and cozy nights by the fireplace. It’s also the time to get your fireplace or wood stove chimney cleaned and checked, says your fire chief.

Chimneys really decorate the roofline of a home … and they’re maintenance–free, besides. Right?

Your chimney, and the flue that lines it, adds architectural interest to your home, but it’s real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace, wood stove or furnace safely out of your home.

A chimney helps your household air stay breathable, just as your windows and your bathroom, attic and kitchen vents do. Unlike those other exhaust points in your home, however, fireplace and wood stove chimneys need a special kind of care.

As you snuggle in front of a cozy fire or bask in the warmth of your wood stove, you are taking part in a ritual of comfort and enjoyment handed down through the centuries. The last thing you are likely to be thinking about is the condition of your chimney.

However, if you don’t give some thought to it before you light those winter fires, your enjoyment may be very short-lived. Why? Dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, which damage structures, destroy homes and injure or kill people.

All chimneys deteriorate through heavy use, neglect, and age. Some of the many problems include cracked or missing bricks, a blocked flue, missing mortar, a deteriorated crown, corroded flashing, corroded pre-fabricated chimneys, and creosote build-up.

Creosote forms when unburned waste products from wood adhere to the sides of the chimney. The worst danger is that creosote can ignite inside your chimney. A hot and quickly spreading chimney fire can cause damage to your entire house.

A disaster such as this can be easily avoided by having your chimney checked annually. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and the local building codes for proper installation, use, and maintenance of your wood-burning stove.

Always start your fire using paper and small pieces of kindling. Never use accelerants to start a fire. Things can get out of hand in a hurry.
Burn only well-seasoned wood. Green or unseasoned wood burns cooler than well-seasoned wood, and can cause creosote to build up at a much faster rate.

Be sure to clean the ashes out of your wood-burning stove on a regular basis. Store the ashes in a covered metal container. Hot coals in discarded ashes can easily ignite grass, leaves, and trees if left uncovered. Keep the ash container at a safe distance away from the house and any other nearby buildings.
Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers
Change the batteries and test each smoke detector unit regularly. If for some reason you have disconnected a smoke detector, hook it back up. This precaution saves lives!

Smoke detectors can be purchased at most hardware, home building, and a variety of retail stores. This is a very inexpensive way to protect you and your family.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and make sure that everyone in your household knows how to use it. Keep your fire extinguisher well maintained. If it does not work, it won’t do you any good.

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