What’s It Like to Have a Chimney Fire?
It’s no fun! If it doesn’t burn the house down, it will probably wreck your chimney and scare you half to death. Here’s how it happens. Begin with one dirty chimney – let’s say a fireplace that was not cleaned for a couple of years. The soot lining the chimney is saturated with flammable creosote (more detail is available on creosote in any dictionary). It doesn’t take much to ignite creosote – a newspaper fire sending flames up to the damper is enough.
Once kindled, creosote burns with joyous abandon. In a matter of seconds, the fire spreads up through the flue and creates a draft that only helps things along. At this point, your average chimney fire begins to roar and howl, sounding for all the world like a rocket taking off in your living room!
If you run, you’ll be treated to a real fireworks show. As the creosote burns, it actually peels and curls off the inside walls of the chimney. This blazing inferno then drips into the flue, forming red-hot fireballs that are whisked up in the tremendous updraft.
Like a giant Roman Candle, it shoots molten balls of fire out the chimney and onto the roof. If you’re lucky, the chimney will fall apart, destroying one end of the building. If you’re not, this miniature volcano can bring the whole house down.
However, if you stand your ground, a chimney fire can be controlled. Call the fire department. Put out the fire in the fireplace with an extinguisher or sand. Cover the opening with a wet blanket (quickest source of water is the toilet), and hope for the best. But it should be pointed out that having your chimney cleaned is a lot easier on the nerves than the sand & wet blanket method!