Tis the season to snuggle up next to a warm fire. But that romantic notion can easily be shattered and lost if a flue fire starts. How can you prevent a flue fire from happening? Well the first step is to know what causes a flue fire.
Flue fires are typically created by creosote build-up. Creosote is a very thick, sticky liquid that will stick to nearly anything. The burning of wood causes the creation of creosote naturally. Creosote is naturally very flammable and its appearance can vary from being be sooty or ash like, sticky, tacky, and runny tar glaze, dry honeycombs or curly flakes. It can also be a dense, hard, and shiny black tar glaze.You should be sure to clean your chimney and flue every year to remove creosote build up from the previous winter's fires, you will need a chimney brush to help in cleaning. If you do not feel comfortable cleaning it yourself, you can hire a local chimney sweep.
There are also things that you can do when it is the season to be using your wood stove or fireplace that can also help in preventing a flue fire.
When first building a fire, make a small, very hot fire, this will create a good updraft so that there is less buildup on the flue. (For more info read: How to Start a Fire in a Woodstove)
Always, burn wood that is well seasoned and/or dry. (For more info read: How to Season Firewood)
Avoid burning large amounts of paper and cardboard, using them to start a fire is fine, but do not burn more than you need. Wood stoves and fireplaces are not meant to be trash burners. Certain types of material will cause a much larger amount of build up in your flue than others.
Another little tip is to toss a handful of salt thrown on the flames occasionally, it will help loosen the soot. You should do this once or twice a month.
Try not to use extremely pitchy wood for anything other than starting the fire, as this wood will create more build up. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but be aware that by using this type of wood that you will have more creosote build up.
If you do have a flue fire, do not panic, call the fire department, and do not pour water into the firebox (this can have explosive results). You can pour salt or use a foam style fire extinguisher. But first and foremost get yourself and your family to safety. Things can eventually be replaced. Lives cannot.