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E-Minute: Fireplace/Chimney Fires
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

chimney fire investigationAs we are moving through the height of the home heating season, it’s a good time to review some points to look for when processing fireplace/chimney fires. These can not only help you out in the field when assessing whether to engage an origin and cause investigator, but also what to look for in your investigator’s report.

We look at three general areas of concern when investigating fires associated with fireplaces and/or chimneys: manufacturing/design defects, installation issues, and use/misuse concerns. Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Manufacturing/design defects are not as common as some of the other issues, but do occur. It is important to look for cracked seams in manufactured boxes, deformed or misaligned clearance brackets, component inclusion/exclusion, and correct part usage. Is the system designed to draft properly, or is heat allowed to build-up in any particular area?

Installation issues are not at all uncommon. The placement of the fireplace system components can be improper, especially when changes are made after framing is complete. It is important to look for compliance to clearance requirements, as these are often violated, but bear in mind that clearance issues do not necessarily mean clearance was the cause of the fire. Finally, make sure that the components of the system were properly aligned upon installation and remained so through settling movement and any maintenance/cleaning activities.

That brings us to use/misuse concerns, the most common cause of chimney fires that we see. It is recommended that chimney systems be cleaned once a year. This recommendation is not limited to cleaning soot out of the chimney flue, but inspecting for blockages caused by animal and insect nests. As a corollary to these issues, the type of fuel burned in the system must be documented. It is not uncommon for people to burn paper, garbage, pine, and other items in their wood burning fireplaces that may increase the amount of soot or heat buildup.

Contact us here or give us a call on your next suspected fireplace or chimney fire so that these issues can be evaluated efficiently and any potential for recovery discovered quickly.

1-855-FIRENSICS (347-3674)

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