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Ruchala Chimney Sweeping


Fire and Safety Tips


Products of combustion

Ash, soot, creosote, water and acid, this all comes from the burning of hydrocarbons, wood, coal, oil and gas.

Each of the fuels produce different products and some of the same depending on how they are burned and at what efficiency they are burned.

Burning oil or gas produces a very wet exhaust that when condensed can rot the inside of the chimney like turning a hose onto a sand castle, it just washes away. 

Burning wood or coal adds a whole new dimension to the word mess.  Coal is very corrosive, more so than oil as is contains more sulfur.  Wood produces soot and ash that can cote the inside if the flue reducing the efficiency of the draft.  When burned low and slow in a wood stove or in a slow smoky fire place it can produce creosote.  This is actually tar vapor condensing into a liquid and then hardening into a flammable solid.  


Learn All You Can about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A special thank you to a great bunch of students from Delaware, (with a very special thanks to Samantha! ) who sent us this invaluable information on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

With the cold weather coming, people will soon be turning on furnaces and space heaters, its important to know all you can about carbon monoxide poisoning.

Please see the "Portable Guide to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" put together by

This is a terrific resource containing all the information you could ever need regarding carbon monoxide. Thanks Samantha & Ashley and all the Delaware students for the info!


Anatomy of a flue fire

extreme flue fireHeated wood releases hydrocarbon gases. When these get hot enough (about 1100 degrees F) they mix with air and catch fire.

When hearth or wood stove fires smolder, unburned gases condense and deposit on the stove pipes and the flue as runny acids and liquid tars that harden into creosote.

Both a cool flue and steam from green or wet wood create this condensation.

Creosote can appear as any of the following;

  • a sooty powder
  • a gummy mess
  • a hard glaze
  • a deposit that looks like burnt marshmallows.

A creosote fire can burn with such blast-furnace intensity that it sets off this frightening chain of events:

"Crumbling and cracking mortar; Balls of flaming creosote shoot out of the chimney top onto the roof; Clay-tile fluliners crack open; Stainless steel liners warp, buckle and separate at the seams; Masonry in the chimney expands with such force that sections of the chimney can blow out; flames can spread to the structure or roof of the house even explode into the room".


Tar-glazed Creosote

This type of creosote makes for the hottest burning fuel for a flue fire.

The thicker the layer of creosote, the hotter the fire. The heat generated by this infernal can raise to ignition point, the temperature of wood structures on the other side of a chimney, so that it also starts to burn threatening the entire house.

Wood doesn't necessarily need contact with fire in order to ignite. It just needs air, oxygen and enough heat.

A house may survive the first chimney fire, but the intense heat has started pyrolyzing* nearby combustibles, thus lowering their ignition temperature.

This makes the structure very vulnerable to a subsequent chimney fire. A damaged flueliner can no longer protect either the chimney or the house. And instead of being all burned out, creosote may instead be all puffed up to the point of partially or completely blocking the flue.

What is Pyrolysis

Pyrolysis is chemical decomposition caused by heat. Severely pyrolyzed wood can ignite at only 2l2 degrees F, while it would normally have a catch-fire temperature of about 500 degrees F, before it had any exposure to intense heat.

Here are some ways to avoid them:

  • Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than 'hardwood versus soft wood'
  • Build smaller, hotter fires that bum completely and produce less smoke.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or trees; these can spark a chimney fire.
  • Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures where wood stoves are in use, so you can adjust burning practices as needed

Using a Fire Extinguisher

extinguisher signEvery house needs at least one fire extinguisher, there are many web sites that will teach you how to choose (and to use correctly) a fire extinguisher. Please see our Services page for some helpful links on fire extinguisher and fire alarm safety.

Before using your fire extinguisher, be sure to read the instructions before it's too late. Although there are many different types of fire extinguishers, all of them operate in a similar manner.

Use this acronym as a quick reference






Pull the Pin at the top of the extinguisher. The pin releases a locking mechanism and will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.

Aim at the base of the fire, not the flames. This is important - in order to put out the fire, you must extinguish the fuel.

Squeeze the lever slowly. This will release the extinguishing agent in the extinguisher. If the handle is released, the discharge will stop.

Sweep from side to side. Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher back and forth until the fire is completely out. Operate the extinguisher from a safe distance, several feet away, and then move towards the fire once it starts to diminish. Be sure to read the instructions on your fire extinguisher - different fire extinguishers recommend operating them from different distances. Remember: Aim at the base of the fire, not at the flames!!!!

A typical fire extinguisher contains 10 seconds of extinguishing power. This could be less if it has already been partially discharged. Always read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher beforehand and become familiarized with its parts. It is highly recommended by fire prevention experts that you get hands-on training before operating a fire extinguisher. Most local fire departments offer this service.

Once the fire is out, don't walk away! Watch the area for a few minutes in case it re-ignites. Recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.



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The 7 Ways to Prepare for a Home Fire

  1. Install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.

  2. Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.

  3. Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.

  4. Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.

  5. Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out.

  6. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.

  7. Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.


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