Take steps to prevent chimney fires
We have two fireplaces in our home. One is a huge brick monster that begins in the basement and rises straight up through the centre of the house.
It is more than 100 years old.
The other is in the family room addition that we added when we moved into the house more than 25 years ago.
The first time we ever used the brick fireplace, I scavenged wood scraps from around the house to provide some warmth while my wife worked on lesson plans for her coming school year.
The renovations were well underway at the time and the new heating system had yet to be installed. The fireplace had been blocked when we were buying the house and we were not sure if it worked or not.
That fireplace is seldom used. Originally, it probably was used to warm a study. Today it is part of our dining room. We light it for Christmas brunch and New Year’s Eve dinner.
Occasionally when we have friends over, we will have a fire with dinner. It seems to make the room cozier.
We were replacing the old oil-fired boiler that pumped hot water to heaters throughout the house at that time. The gas company insisted on lining the chimney. It was protection from the chimney corroding and blocking escaping gas.
The chimney out of the top of the house was replaced with new brick and mortar.
Our renovation plans called for a fireplace in the family room and when we could afford it, the fireplace went in. Our first load of wood came from a friend who had brought in birch from the bush. It had been cut the previous year and it was dry.
That load of birch seemed to last us for almost a decade and became drier and drier as each year passed.
This fireplace is used much more frequently and has provided years of pleasure. For the past three weeks, we seem to have had a fire in it almost every night—and the heat radiates out over the room.
We are trying to conserve energy and keeping the temperature in the house down. Having the fire place burning for a few hours each evening is our way of saving money.
It is probably false economy, but the hint of smoke and the warmth of the fireplace seems like a traditional way of spending a Canadian evening.
We continue to use really dry wood. In fact, the wood we are burning right now had aged for more than two years at the cottage. It is well-seasoned.
Having fireplaces is not without peril. Using wet or green wood is full of perils. Perhaps the most serious peril is that of a chimney fire, which can explode almost spontaneously.
Those fires can burn quickly or slowly, and they can cause immense damage to the chimney and to parts of the building that they are next to.
Last week, a fireman from the Chapple fire department came into the Times office and left me with some startling information.
We are all aware of the importance of cleaning wood-fired chimneys to reduce the creosote build-up. But most owners of oil-fired furnaces are not aware they, too, can suffer chimney fires from furnaces that are not burning heating oil cleanly.
He let me know that of the last five chimney fires the Chapple fire department had responded to, two were from oil-fired furnaces. His recommended solution was that every homeowner, heating with either wood or oil, should have their chimneys cleaned regularly and their oil furnaces serviced annually.
With colder weather now being forecast for the month of December, heating systems will have more demands put on them.
Each Christmas season, we seem to write a story in the newspaper of a family who loses their home to a fire. The reasons are varied but in all cases, those fires could be prevented with a little caution and safety.
Take steps to prevent chimney fires