chimney fire


   Chimney Fire

My definition of a chimney fire might be different from what you are thinking.  Keep reading and view our pictures below....

January 5th, 2010 at 4:30 am the dogs were barking and our life was forever changed.  I heard the creosote trickling down the pipe but I also heard this weird popping sound. Something didn't seem right, but I just rolled over as my wife let the dogs out to go potty.  She checked the fire and looked up at the firebox in the ceiling.  There was this little crack of light she could see and she yelled "Bob I think we have a fire".  Realize my wife has said this numerous times in the past 17 years and I always told her the reason she thinks it's a chimney fire.

Immediately without missing a beat, I told her "YES, we do have a chimney fire".  I was sleeping in the great room at the time on a air mattress to help my back heal, but as I turned to look at her I also could see a glow in between our wood ceiling planks.  My next words were: "call 911" and try to find our insurance papers".

I immediately ran into my daughters room to tell her to wake up and get out of the home we have a fire.  Much to my surprise our heavy sleeping daughter was instantly up and out of bed.  She was running for the Miss USA type pagent in our community and the first thing she took to the car was her brand new dress she purchased a few days earlier.  All told she took 3 diffferent trips to the vehicle before we loaded up the dogs (3 of the 4) and told her to go to her Oma's house in town.

Meanwhile my wife was busy upstairs locating our insurance papers and I was running around in my birthday suit (or close to it) gathering up things she wanted to get out of the house as well as my daughters things.  On my 4th trip I managed to stop in our closet to find some cloths to put on.

The chimney fire was building steam and the loft of our home was getting pretty smokey and I told her to get out of dodge.  Not exactly sure what else she did, but without thinking she did not put on a coat before she ran outside.

To give you an idea our chimney flue ran up through our master closet and that is the area that had the most junk in it including all our cloths.  We lost everything in that area including family pictures. As you can imagine it was horrible watching your home burn and you can't do a darn thing except wait for the fire department to show up.

I will give the fire department all the credit because from the time we called to the time water hit our home was only 20 minutes.  At the time it felt like an eternity.  Things to keep in mind is our fire department is all volunteers, it was 4:30 in the morning, the cops and sheriffs got lost in the thick fog and they still managed to drive 5 miles out of town to our home.

The fire department carefully plotted a strategy to attack our fire by first fanning the fire with water from the outside.  It became difficult for them because we had a metal roof.  The metal roof helped keep the heat inside but when they did manage to break our doors down you could feel the heat rush out of the house.

Once inside they immediately began to tear our ceilings out to help them have easy access to our fire. They did a wonderful job of saving as much stuff as they could including taking our computer apart and placing it in a bedroom away from the fire.  However, the heat and smoke did penetrate the hard drive and after a few days that computer died on me.  Everything in our great room, leather couches, tv's, stereo's etc. was destroyed from heat, water and the wood ceiling falling on it.

We are lucky the fire stuck in the trusses and never worked it's way down the walls to far. Click this link to see a picture:  Trusses      Ceiling Fire

What have we learned from this chimney fire?

First off let me tell you what my definition of a chimney fire is.  A chimney fire starts inside your wood stove pipe due to eccessive creosote buildup.  Our fire did not start inside the stove pipe.  Instead our best guess, the fire departments best guess and even the insurance agents best guess is the stove pipe's inner tube shifted close enough to the outside pipe and seasoned the wood of our home until it finally ignited. Chimney Fire

So what I have learned from this fire is that you can never think your pipes are sound after 15 years.  I have lived with wood burning heat my entire 50 years of life.  We've had 3 wood stoves in my family, my parents have owned wood stoves and wood inserts and my brother owns a wood stove. No matter what the cost have your stove pipes, chimney pipes inspected every 5 years by a qualified person and if they tell you something is wrong, then get it fixed unless you like to gamble with your life. I know my brother, my neighbors and everyone we know has had someone inspect their chimney pipes, wood stoves and inserts.

It's always best to be on the safe side even if it costs you a few dollars.  True wood burning families would rather sink than lose their wood stoves and we are one of them.  However, I will tell you that our stove pipes will be inspected yearly before every fire season.  And I don't mean cleaning the chimney pipes, I mean crawling inside the attic and visually checking every inch of that pipe.  Those of you who have a chase needs to get creative in your approach to checking your stove pipes.

If you occassionally use your wood stoves it's critical but not as critical as someone who uses their wood stoves to heat their entire home like we do.  Our stove turns on in October and runs full speed ahead until late April or early May.  More pictures below



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chimney fire