Company Blog

Here we are again! Chimney fire “season”.

Two common causes for these fires occurring more often in late December and early January:

  • Burning of wrapping paper and old trees after Christmas.
    – Burning materials aside from the designated fuel can result in a devastating chimney fire, but in reality, even apparently safe burning can result in such an irritating inconvenience.
  • Lack of service (routine, regular chimney sweeping).
    – Our tendency for procrastination puts off annual service and then (at the last minute before the need for holiday fires) there’s no way to get an appointment and we think, “well, we really haven’t used it THAT much. It’ll probably be ok…..”


Anatomy of a Chimney Fire

Anytime wood burns, it creates by-products of combustion. These materials include smoke, soot, carbon monoxide, and creosote. The build-up of creosote is responsible for chimney fires. Creosote can be black or brown in color and flakey or slick in texture. Any combination of traits is highly flammable. With every fire in the fireplace or stove, creosote condenses along the interior of the chimney, building to increasingly dangerous levels. A stray spark or ember, from burning wrapping paper for example, can easily ignite the creosote, turning an innocent, homely fire in your fireplace into a catastrophe.

Creosote burns at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is four to five times hotter than traditional wood fires. This extreme heat and the other chemical traits of creosote make these fires very difficult to extinguish quickly. Resulting damage can include melted mortar, cracked bricks, cracked flue tiles and exposed woodwork in the house. Once the woodwork catches fire, the house could very well burn to the ground, costing thousands of dollars in damage and potentially injuring or killing people inside the house.

While chimney fires often create noteworthy displays of light and explosions, they can also be secretive and slow-burning, causing damage without alerting anyone. A chimney sweep will look for signs of a chimney fire, including smoke leaking through the masonry materials, honeycomb textured creosote, discolored chimney components, and heat damaged roofing. Generally, chimney fires will leave severe damage in their wake and require extensive repairs. Sometimes it could even require entire chimney rebuilds, in order for the chimney to function safely again. These are not inexpensive repairs, so avoiding chimney fires would be a worthy goal.

Fortunately, chimney fires are, for the most part, preventable.

  • First, current fire safety standards mandate an annual chimney sweep, which involves the removal of built-up creosote from the interior of the chimney.
    – For fireplaces and stoves that experience heavy use, experts recommend more frequent sweeps, if need is indicated.
  • Second, burning the proper fuel for the fireplace or stove goes a long way toward reducing creosote buildup in the first place.
    – Burning wood that has been properly seasoned cuts down on creosote buildup, as well as burning more hardwoods than softwoods. Avoid burning freshly cut wood – like an old Christmas tree – and any kind of papers or decorations, which burn very hot and can emit sparks and embers.

For more information on preventing chimney fires, visit our Company Blog page. In the search box on that page, type “chimney fire”. That will get you started.

To schedule a routine chimney sweep in Upstate South Carolina, contact Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps.


See what to expect when your chimney is inspected by Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth

A functioning fireplace is one of the highlights of the Winter Season.  It is where you can share warm hugs, kisses and gather for special events with your loved ones.   Along with all this wonderfulness comes the responsibility for managing the risk of having your house damaged or burned to the ground or worse yet someone in your family being hurt.  It is important to have it inspected regularly to avoid accidents that could interfere with the fireplace “warm-fuzzies”.

Your CSIA certified and well trained technician will know, upon conducting your basic Level 1 inspection, whether or not additional inspection and/or sweeping is needed. The inspection process could involve putting a camera inside your chimney.  Your technician will recommend the appropriate level of inspection needed for your circumstances.

Safety in Your Home

Risk-of-use (safety) must always come first in every home.  Taking for granted that all is working properly just because the smoke is not coming back down the chimney and burning your eyes, could be a costly mistake.   Homeowners do well to verify that their fireplaces/chimneys are performing as it is assumed they are.  Chimney malfunction can be costly at best (if there is property damage), and deadly at the worst (if there is a home fire or carbon monoxide intrusion).

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, 24,500 residential fires happened in 2005 and were caused by chimney fires.  These fires resulted in a death toll of 20 and over one hundred million dollars in property loss.  It takes experts in the field of chimney inspection and evaluation to help change these statistics.

Levels of Chimney Inspection

There are three levels for Chimney Inspections.  The National Fire Protection association has indicated the circumstances that would require each level of inspection.  Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth adheres to the inspection standard that is outlined in NFPA Standard 211.

We have recently discussed the different levels of inspection in a blog posted here.  We invite you to review the information.

Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps|Bless Your Hearth technicians are well-trained and prepared to inspect and evaluate your chimney for any issues related to risk-of-use, performance or general maintenance.  At the end of the inspection process, you will receive a condition report noting any issues found and recommendations for resolution of any noted issues.  Call today!