As Winter temperatures begin to settle in and we have received our first significant snow of the season, we have also started to see an increase in flue fires in our area. According to the U.S.Fire Administration (USFA), fires in chimneys, flues or fuel burners account for 75 percent of home heating fires. This week, when the snow started to fall, we responded to three fires in our district in less than 24 hours, and all were fireplace-related.

Flue fires are caused by a buildup of creosote, a tar-like residue left behind when smoke from a fireplace cools inside the chimney. Creosote is highly combustible, and with enough build-up, it can reignite along the walls inside your chimney and begin to burn at a very high temperature. This can result in damage to the chimney or even worse, it could spread to other areas of the home. Some flue fires are described as sounding like a freight train, with thick smoke and flames coming from the top of the chimney, but that is not always the case. Other flue fires can go unnoticed, and the damage is only detected during a routine inspection.

Here are a few tips from the USFA to help you safely enjoy your fireplace this winter:

  • Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks jumping out.
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned each year by a professional
  • Put ashes in a metal container with a lid, outside, at least 3 feet from your home.

As always, make sure you have working smoke detectors properly placed throughout your home.

High Ridge Fire District offers smoke detectors to district residents who need them, in partnership with the Red Cross. You can contact our headquarters at 636-677-3371 for details.