Every year during the last week of September the Chimney Safety Institute of America promotes National Chimney Safety Week, where chimney professionals from all over the country are encouraged to promote chimney safety. This year it runs from September 30 to October 6.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission there are an average of 24,500 residential fires in the United States originating in chimneys, fireplaces and solid fuel appliances. Most of these fires are preventable. These are the latest statistics available as of August 2013. The full report is available from the USCPSC – See more.
Chimney fires are usually contained within the structure of the chimney, however, if damage is severe the fire can escape to nearby combustibles such as wood framing or hidden studs or headers behind a facial wall. Once the fire has escaped the chimney and has an air supply it is only a matter of time until it erupts into a full-blown house fire. Chimney fires almost always cause damage to the internal and sometimes external portions of the chimney, so an inspection is needed by a professional chimney sweep before the fireplace or stove is used after a fire has occurred. According to the Midwest Chimney Safety Council, many chimney fires occur without the homeowner’s knowledge and the statistics are only those fires reported to the fire department.
Carbon Monoxide, which is a normal by-product of combustion, can escape a damaged chimney or improperly sized flue liner and back up in to the home. For this reason, all furnace flues, boiler flues, water heater flues, and oil-burning flues need to be inspected annually and corrected as necessary to assure that no CO is entering the living space. Unfortunately, this is a major area that homeowners often neglect, yet it is probably the most important maintenance item in the home. The CPSC estimates that 46 people die annually from CO poisoning from heating equipment and faulty flues, but statistics regarding illness are unavailable.
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include unexplained headaches, nausea, dizzyness, weakness, fainting, and death. Long term exposure to low levels of CO can cause irreversible brain damage and according to Dr. David Penney of www.coheadquarters.com, may be a cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
An annual chimney inspection and cleaning by a CSIA Certified professional will ensure that a chimney functions properly and safely. CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps have been trained to inspect, clean and repair chimneys and fireplaces and have a thorough understanding of fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimneys and venting systems. The CSIA is a non-profit educational organization.