Every year, there are literally thousands of needless deaths caused by building fires. Sadly, many of these deaths are preventable with proper care and preventative maintenance in place. Creosote buildup is one of the major causes of home fires, and is something which every homeowner with a fireplace needs to be aware.
Creosote is a residue created from burning fires. It will appear as a gooey buildup and is extremely flammable. If this substance accumulates in the fireplace or chimney, the home is more susceptible to an accidental fire. As little as 1/8″ of buildup is more than enough to cause a chimney fire. Fires of this nature often spread very quickly, and cannot be extinguished easily with home fire safety devices, such as a fire extinguisher. It is for this reason that preventative maintenance should be scheduled.
It is recommended that a fireplace safety inspection be conducted every year. Ideally, this inspection will take place at the end of the summer or early fall before the fireplace is put to use again. What many homeowners do not realize is that even though the fireplace is not in use, it serves as an exhaust for the home. In addition, there is the chance of buildup from outside sources. This can serve as an additional accelerant, and make it even more likely that a fire will occur.
While there are some products that can be purchased, it is recommended that a professional chimney sweep conduct both the inspection and the cleaning process. The average homeowner does not have the expertise or experience to ensure their chimney is indeed cleaned and safe to use. If there is ever an area where it is better to be safe than sorry, a fireplace and chimney free of creosote buildup is it!