What to Do if You Have a Chimney Fire

Close up of a campfire

Smoke is supposed to go up the chimney, so you can enjoy a fireplace, but what happens if the chimney actually catches fire while you’re using it? Chimney fires are rare but they can happen. Learn the warning signs of a chimney fire.

How Does a Chimney Fire Start?

Flammable substances such as creosote can stick to the sides of the chimney during normal operation. It becomes dangerous when these substances build up, as they can become hot and even catch fire.

Chimney fires can also develop when there is debris, such as animal nests, within the flue. If you have a chimney cap, it will prevent debris from falling into the chimney, where it can catch fire. However, if the chimney cap is degraded, it can’t properly do its job.

What are the Signs of a Chimney Fire?

A chimney fire can either be fast or slow. If the fire is slow, debris within the chimney has caught fire but is not receiving enough oxygen to be visible outside the house. Warning signs of a slow chimney fire include:

  • Cracked or damaged flue tiles within the chimney
  • Cracks in chimney masonry that are visible to the naked eye
  • Smoke escaping through the sides of the chimney, rather than the top
  • Creosote appears fluffy or gray rather than flat and black

A fast chimney fire is visible from outside the house. Other warning signs include:

  • Flaming creosote coming out of the chimney
  • A strong burning smell
  • Smoke spilling out the chimney or coming down the fireplace
  • Noises, such as a bonfire or cracking fire sounds the roar of a rushing train

What to Do if There’s a Chimney Fire

If you hear, see, or smell a chimney fire, leave the house immediately. When you are in a safe place, call 911 to report the fire.

Contact your home insurance company to put in a claim. Your insurance company will typically send out an adjuster who will investigate the chimney fire and prepare a report before repairs are authorized. Once the insurance company authorizes repairs, you’ll hire out the job to a local chimney servicer, who will repair any damage.

Brandstetter’s KangaRoof offers chimney repair services including light masonry repair, chimney cap replacement, and chimney sealing. To learn more about our services or talk to us about needed repair, call 513.713.0418.