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Fire and Safety Tips

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 www.air-n-water.com.

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".

fire

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

 

P

A

S

S

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.

 

 

sweep

Many chimney fires occur because the flue interior has been neglected by not being cleaned. Chimneys can become choked and partially blocked with an accumulation of soot deposit, left from burning coal or wood. Soot rises up in the smoke and is deposited by it on the surfaces of the flue.

 

Chimney Fire

 

 

 

 

Carbon Monoxide
The Silent Killer
Leaves, bird nests or debris from your gas or oil heating system can block your chimney. A crack or break in the flue tile to can interfere with the chimney’s ability to vent properly.

If your chimney is blocked or is not airtight, Carbon Monoxide may seep into your home unnoticed. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu: headaches, fatigue and nausea. If undetected, this odorless, colorless gas can be fatal.

Your wood stove may be blocked if smoke is blowing back into your home. Sometimes, it may be simple flow reversal -- negative pressures in the house make the smoke blow the wrong way. Carbon Monoxide may be present in this wood smoke as well. Carbon Monoxide from gas appliances is not so noticeable because there is no smoke.

Please see the "Portable Guide to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning" put together by www.air-n-water.com

creosote

Creosote:
The Monster in your Chimney!

The buildup of creosote in your fireplace, wood stove and chimney is unavoidable, A natural byproduct of the wood burning process, creosote forms a black powdery, flaky or glazed coating on the inside of your chimney. Creosote is a potential fire hazard: it's the primary fuel in most chimney fires! During a chimney fire, the outside surface of the chimney can become hot enough to ignite surrounding walls, floor joists, rafters, insulation or roofing materials. Suddenly, you have a structure fire, which can burn your entire house down.

chimney fire

 

 

 

A Fine Mess

Some people believe that having a chimney fire from time to time is a good way to clear creosote from a chimney. Bad idea! Allowing a chimney to catch fire on a regular basis increases the chances of damaging your home. Even a small fire can make a chimney unsafe to use.

 

annual cleaning

 

 

 

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