Oh, a chimney fire will just burn itself out. No big deal. That’s what a chimney is for, after all.

This is a common misconception when it comes to chimney fires – and it can be a very dangerous one. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, there are over 25,000 chimney fires in the US each year. In terms of property damage and loss, the cost is estimated at over $126 million. The cost when it comes to human life is incalculable.

It is essential that homeowners are prepared and know how to put out a chimney fire.

This. Is. Serious.

Many people assume that chimney liners are designed to contain fire. This is another dangerous misconception. They are not; they are designed to contain smoke and gasses, providing a safe route from the heating source to the outdoors.

If there is a fire in the chimney, theoretically yes, it can burn itself out – as long as it doesn’t have access to more fuel (wood from the firebox, creosote, oxygen, etc.). But as or more likely, the fire will cause the liner to crack, warp, or buckle, depending on the material from which it’s made. Heat, smoke, and flames can then access other areas of your home, including your attic, walls, ceilings, and nearby combustibles.

The best advice is to play it safe: a chimney fire is serious, and it can even be life-threatening.

How to Put Out a Chimney Fire

You’ll hear all kinds of advice when it comes to how to put out a chimney fire, from hosing down the chimney to dousing the flames with salt. We want you to do the safest thing possible for your home – and your family.

1. Get Everyone Out

This is basic fire safety: Have an evacuation plan in place with multiple exit options, if possible. Be sure to establish a meeting place that is far enough away from the house to ensure safety. The first and most critical step is making sure everyone is out of the house. As you leave, close the doors to cut off as much oxygen as you can.

2. Call 911

If you call in a four-alarm fire, and it turns out that you could’ve taken care of the situation by shutting the damper… well, better safe than sorry. You never know what’s going on in the chimney and if heat and flames have spread to other areas of your home.

Even if you think you have extinguished the fire, call 911 to have trained firefighters assess the scene.

3. Cut Off the Fire’s Fuel Supply

If you determine that the situation is safe (and everyone else is out), you can close any openings in the fireplace or stove, such as the damper and flue. Again, this cuts off oxygen, which fire needs to spread.

You may also want to have an ABC fire extinguisher on hand. Point the nozzle at the fireplace grate or firebox and deliver short bursts, careful not to throw embers into the air. Alternatively, you can use sand, salt, or baking soda to douse the flames in the firebox.

4. Hose Down the Chimney

If the fire department has not arrived at this point, and the situation is still safe, use a hose to dampen the chimney outside. Use a gentle spray to avoid damaging the inside of the chimney.

5. Clean Out the Firebox

Again (and we’ll keep repeating this!), if it is safe, use a wood stove shovel to remove debris from the firebox. Put it in a metal bucket and take it outside. Get your hose again, and spray the bucket and debris to make sure it is completely extinguished.

6. Use a Chimney Extinguisher

Products like Chimfex are made specifically for chimney fires. These fire suppressant sticks emit smoke and particles designed to displace the oxygen within the flue, suffocating the fire and lowering the temperature in the flue.

Make sure you know how to use Chimfex before an emergency arises. You will need to activate it by removing the top lid and exposing the scratch surface on the cap. Twist and remove the cap; you will see a black button. Lightly scratch the black button with the cap, and toss the stick into the stove alongside the fire (not directly in it). From there, be sure to close air inlet controls and open the damper.

7. Let the Firefighters Do Their Job

You may be confident that you have successfully extinguished the chimney fire. Great! But let the fire department examine the scene and assess whether there is an ongoing danger.  Your safety is the top priority.

What To Do After a Chimney Fire

Experiencing a chimney fire – even if it did not do much damage – can be frightening. The last thing you want is a recurrence! In the aftermath of a fire, have your chimney inspected by a professional to ensure that it is safe to use and that any damage has been cleaned and/or repaired properly.

The good news is that the vast majority of chimney fires can be prevented by taking simple steps like routine cleaning and inspection.

Taking a minute to schedule an appointment with Brick + Ember can save you not only money but deliver priceless peace of mind.