How to Extinguish a Chimney Fire: The Easy Way

Chimney fires can be a frightening event for homeowners. While the instinct might be to grab a hose and douse the flames, there are several factors to consider to ensure safety and minimize damage.

Taking Initial Steps

  1. Evacuation and Alert:  The most crucial step is ensuring everyone’s safety. Evacuate the house immediately and call 911. Inhaling smoke can be deadly, so prioritize getting everyone out and to fresh air.
  1. Damping Down the Fire: Once everyone is safe, locate the damper on your wood stove or fireplace and close it. This cuts off the oxygen supply to the fire, potentially slowing it down.
  1. Limited Extinguisher Use: If you have a small fire and an ABC-rated fire extinguisher readily available, you can attempt to extinguish the flames in the firebox with short bursts. However, proceed with caution and only if the fire appears manageable.

Professional Intervention and Techniques

Chimney fires require professional intervention due to the potential for hidden dangers. Here’s what firefighters typically do:

  1. Water with Caution:  Firefighters use water extinguishers, but sparingly. A sudden dousing with cold water can cause the chimney to crack.
  2. Dry Chemical Options: Dry chemical extinguishers are another tool, but they create a mess within the fireplace and flue.  A special technique involves dropping a bag filled with dry chemical powder down the chimney. The bag melts partially, releasing the powder into the airflow to smother the flames.
  3. Chimney Chain Cleaning: After the fire is under control, firefighters may use chimney chains. These long chains with chisel-like attachments help remove burning creosote deposits clinging to the flue. A firefighter below the chimney collects the debris through a cleanout door for safe disposal.

Why Professional Help Matters

While some methods like closing the damper or using a limited amount of extinguisher might seem manageable, it’s crucial to call the fire department for several reasons:

  • Hidden Spread: Chimney fires can quickly spread to the attic, roof, or walls unseen. A professional inspection can identify hidden dangers.
  • Creosote Removal: Burning creosote is a leading cause of chimney fires. Firefighters have the expertise and tools to safely remove these deposits and prevent future incidents.
  • Chimney Inspection: After extinguishing the fire, a thorough inspection is vital to ensure the chimney’s structural integrity and prevent future problems.

By prioritizing safety and calling the fire department, homeowners can minimize damage and ensure a swift and professional resolution to a potentially dangerous situation.

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