When sparks are coming out of your chimney, it’s not the optimal time to stop and ask, “Why?” It’s time to call the fire department! One spark is typically not a problem; it’s not unusual for an ember to fly out from time to time. However, if you are seeing multiple sparks, dial 911 and make sure those trucks are dispatched ASAP. You likely have a chimney fire – and this can evolve into a highly dangerous situation quickly. 

Sparks Coming Out of the Chimney? 

What’s the big deal if there are some sparks coming out of the chimney?  

A highly dangerous myth and misconception is that chimneys are designed to contain fire. They are not. They are designed to contain smoke. If there is a fire, it can cause a tile liner to expand and crack in minutes – or even just seconds – in heat as low as 451-500℉. Heat and fire can then spread to the attic, to nearby walls, and to combustibles throughout your home. 

What about stainless steel? These liners are tested to 2100℉ – unfortunately, flue fires can burn as hot as 3000℉. The steel’s molecular structure actually changes, warping and buckling occur, and again, heat and fire can spread throughout the home.  

Can’t happen to you? Every year, there are over 25,000 chimney fires in the United States, creating $125 million in property damage. Beyond the monetary loss, though, is the incomparable loss of life. Several hundred people are killed each year in house fires, the majority of which are “confined fires” (occurring in chimneys, flues, or flue burners).  

Fortunately, most chimney fires can be prevented. 

What Causes Chimney Fires 

Dirty chimneys are the leading cause of contained fires. When we burn wood, the smoke contains unburned wood particles. As the smoke travels through the chimney, it cools and leaves behind a layer of black or brown creosote, which can be flaky, tar-like, sticky, shiny, crusty, or hardened. Each time you enjoy a fire, creosote accumulates on the liner’s walls. 

Creosote is highly corrosive; over time, the ever-thickening layer can damage your chimney liner. But more concerning: this substance is also very flammable. Again, a temperature in the flue as low as 451℉ can ignite creosote. For comparison, the fire in your firebox will be about 450℉. That is a very slim margin of error. 

From creosote to critters….  Another common cause of chimney fires is the buildup of flammable materials, such as birds’ nests. If a chimney is not capped, all manner of wildlife – birds, squirrels, mice, racoons, etc. – will seek shelter. Their nests, fur, feathers, and waste can block the chimney, dirty the liner, and leave you more vulnerable to fire.  

Preventing House Fires 

If you see sparks coming out of the chimney, call the fire department. You probably have had or will have a chimney fire, and this can be devastating. At the least, it’ll be expensive – you will need to have your chimney professionally cleaned at the least and very likely replaced to ensure proper, safe operation.  

The best way to avoid all of this is to get your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. It’s a small investment that reaps big rewards in terms of safety and peace of mind.  

Schedule your appointment with Brick + Ember Outfitters. Nothing is more important than your safety, and that of your loved ones, home, and neighbors.