Chimney Fires Raise Concerns Amidst Frigid Conditions in Robertson County

Chimney Fires Raise Concerns Amidst Frigid Conditions in Robertson County

ROBERTSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE: (Smokey Barn News) – Chimney fires are not unheard of in winter months, but Robertson County has had two in as many days. Additionally, a third home had a flue-related situation also triggering a response from local firefighters. The three scenarios were enough to get the attention of the Robertson County Emergency Management Agency who, with the help of local Firefighters, have released a few safety and operation tips and guidelines as we brave this cold snap.

One of the homes sits on Hall Road between White House and Greenbrier. As you can see in the video above, as firefighters rolled up the drive, fire was shooting out of the top of the chimney. Firefighters with the White House Community Volunteer Fire Department, Greenbrier, Ridgetop and Cross Plains Fire all responded quickly and contained the damage to just one room. An impressive feat considering there was a fireball shooting out of the chimney as Firefighters pulled into the drive. (See video above)

The team at the Robertson County 911 Center also played a key role encouraging residents to get out of their homes to a safe place as they dispatched fire crews to the scene. It may seem logical to try and save items from your home during a fire but it’s just too dangerous. Breathable air quickly vacates a home replacing it with poisonous gas that you may or may not be able to see, even in a small fire. 911 dispatchers know this all too well.

Fortunately for all three homes, our local Firefighters all made incredible saves, or “great stops” (as they call them) with no injuries and minimal (or contained) fire, smoke, and water damage, even with the snow-covered roads and sub-freezing temperatures, 4° on Hall Road. See video above. One home sustained no damage at all. In that case, a simple lesson in proper flue operation did the trick.

It’s logical to assume that the frigid temps blanketing the US have caused a spike in fireplace use across the country and with that an increase in chimney fires. A quick Google search confirmed our hypothesis. SEE SEARCH RESULTS

To help reduce your risk of a chimney fire we have accumulated a few helpful tips. Smokey Barn News would like to thank Fire Chief Joe Williams with the White House Community Volunteer Fire Department and Robertson County EMA Director Chance Holmes for their assistance with the following data.

It may help to remember that a properly designed fireplace heats your home indirectly, not directly by the fire. In other words, the fire does not heat your home, the transfer of heat from the fire to the brickwork of your fireplace heats your home. So, the fire heats the brick, the brick heats your home. One look at an older home with a fireplace and that fact becomes more apparent in the design of the brickwork.

All that said, let’s go over a few safety tips. Be sure to add your safety tips on Smokey’s FB page on this story.

THE BASICS:  Be certain the damper or flue is all the way open before starting a fire. Keeping the damper or flue open until the fire is out will draw smoke out of the house. The damper can be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror. Do not close the damper until the embers have completely stopped burning and never leave a fire unattended.

USE DRY WOOD: Use dry and well-aged wood. Wet or green wood causes more smoke and contributes to soot buildup in the chimney. Dried wood burns with less smoke and burns more evenly, smaller pieces of wood placed on a grate burn faster and produce less smoke.

CLEAN ASHES: Clean out ashes from previous fires. Levels of ash at the base of the fireplace should be kept to 1 inch or less because a thicker layer restricts the air supply to logs, resulting in more smoke.

CHECK FOR BLOCKAGES: Even if the chimney is not due for cleaning, it is important to check for animal nests or other blockages that could prevent smoke from escaping.

KEEP AREA CLEAN: Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of anything that is potentially flammable (ie: furniture, drapes, newspapers, books, etc.). If these items get too close to the fireplace, they could catch fire. In the event of a chimney fire, these items will just help the fire move faster in your home as you await on the arrival of firefighters.

NEVER LEAVE: Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.  Never leave children or pets alone with the fire.

SMOKE/GAS DETECTORS: Install both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.

FIRE EXTINGUSHER: Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

CRACK A WINDOW: If possible, keep a window cracked open while the fire is burning. Smokey Barn News ran this one by ChatGPT, just to see what we’d get. ANSWER: Optimal Draft: A fireplace needs a good draft to ensure that smoke and gases are efficiently drawn up and out of the chimney. Opening a window can help create a better draft, especially in tightly sealed homes where negative air pressure might impede the natural flow of air up the chimney.

Preventing Backdraft: In some cases, a fireplace can cause backdraft, where smoke and gases flow back into the room instead of up the chimney. Opening a window allows fresh air to enter, helping to prevent backdraft and ensuring that combustion byproducts are directed outside.

Reducing Indoor Air Pollution: Burning wood releases pollutants and particulate matter into the air. Opening a window helps to bring in fresh outdoor air, reducing the concentration of indoor air pollutants and improving overall air quality.

Oxygen Supply: Fireplaces consume oxygen as part of the combustion process. Opening a window provides a fresh oxygen supply to support complete combustion, which can result in a cleaner burn and less creosote buildup in the chimney.

Minimizing Condensation: Burning wood can produce moisture. Opening a window helps to minimize condensation on windows and walls by allowing humid indoor air to escape.

While these reasons can be beneficial, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of opening a window depends on various factors, including the size of the room, the efficiency of the fireplace, and the overall ventilation of the home. If you have concerns or specific conditions, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional chimney sweep or a fireplace expert for personalized advice.

TEACH CHILDREN: Talk with children as early as possible about the dangers of fires and the heat coming from them.

LAST: The chimney should be checked annually by a professional.

Conclusion: Stay safe. and ChatGPT contributed to this report.

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