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Chimney Fires

As our temperatures drop, the Murrieta Fire Department (MFD) wants to remind our residents that it ’tis the season for chimney fires. Last winter, MFD responded to several fireplace and chimney fires. These fires caused thousands of dollars in damage and displaced numerous families during the cold winter season.

Indications of a chimney fire have been described as creating:
• loud cracking and popping noise
• a lot of dense smoke
• an intense, hot smell
• the smell of charring with signs of smoke, long after the fire place is “out,” even the next day

Chimney fires can burn explosively, or they can smolder for days, charring the internal rafters above your ceiling and below the roofline. With proper chimney system care, chimney fires are entirely preventable.
As the homes with fireplaces in our community age, the potential for a chimney fire increases. Why?

1. Chimneys/fireplaces are in abundance in our valley
2. There is no consistency in the quality of firewood being burned in fireplaces
3. Routine cleaning and maintenance has not been completed
4. Some residents actually burn wood in “gas only” fire places
5. Today’s fireplaces are more for “ambiance,” rather than for heating the home. Fires tend to be too hot and too large for the today’ fireplaces, over-riding the unit’s designed safety features.

Chimney Fires can be prevented. Don’t burn cardboard boxes or paper products in your fireplace. It’s too easy for a flaming piece of paper to waft up the chimney and catch things on fire. Most importantly, have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Nothing can completely prevent the creation of creosote (a combustible product of burning that builds up in the chimney). However, a certified chimney sweep can keep the problem to a minimum.

If you have a fireplace, when was the last time you had it cleaned and inspected? Always call 9-1-1 at the first sign of trouble and have a fire extinguisher readily available.