Fire needs three things to burn – oxygen, heat, and fuel. The chimney presents the perfect place for a fire because it is hot when it’s in use, it has openings in each end for oxygen, and unless it’s properly cleaned, it has creosote lining the inside walls of the flue. Chimney fires occur more frequently than we would like to admit because so many homeowners ignore the warning signs and think an inspection and cleaning is too expensive or not worth the trouble. Here at Lou Curley’s Chimney Services, we feel that understanding the facts about chimney fires is the first step to preventing them. So that’s what we’re going to do today – explain the facts about chimney fires and how you can prevent them.

Unburned Fuel

The bane of every wood burner’s existence is the day-old-oatmeal type substance called creosote that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney. This substance is a combination of soot and unburned wood that turns into goo. Because it is primarily unburned fuel, it is the perfect fuel for a chimney fire. The CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) recommends that the flue be professionally cleaned if creosote reaches 1/4 inch in thickness.

You may hire a certified or uncertified chimney sweep, but please keep in mind that certifications do speak volumes for people who work in trades. Experience and length of time at the job are wonderful indicators of the quality of work the chimney sweep provides. Certifications and ongoing education help sweeten the deal quite a bit. Our chimney sweep technicians are CSIA certified as well as hold other certifications related to the field.


Fire has to be able to breathe. The chimney is open at both ends, so the flames pull air from the nearest opening and continue to burn at temperatures that can be hotter than 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to destroy the structure of your chimney and spark the surrounding wood that supports the roof of your home. The rest is downhill from there… almost literally.

What to Look For

Chimney fires cause loud cracking and popping noises, a lot of dense smoke, and an intense hot smell. They often burn explosively and may be noticed by people walking by outside the home as well as people who are inside.

As a chimney service, what we look for during a routine inspection is puffy or honeycombed creosote, warped metal, damaged brick, discolored or distorted chimney cap, and several other tell-tale signs that there has been a chimney fire.

Avoid the Inferno

Reduce the chances of a chimney fire by hiring us to perform an inspection and cleaning once or twice per year. The chimney may need two cleanings per year if you use it on a regular basis, but many only require one cleaning per year to help prevent chimney fires. Call us at Lou Curley’s Chimney Service if you’re a homeowner in the Delaware County area and in need of a chimney inspection or sweep.