Chimney Fire Safety: Don't Blow Your Stack!!
The heating season is soon upon us. Furnaces, fireplaces, woodstoves and space heater will be forged up anew. Energy conscious homeowners will restore old fireplaces and install new wood burners, calling into service chimneys that haven'' been used for years. All in all, the question is: how safe is your chimney?
It's easy to forget about your chimney's condition-and its importance to the safety of your home. A chimney blockage can fill your home with deadly fumes?while a chimney fire, too, can spell disaster. Here's hoe to diagnose and treat common chimney problems before they lead to real trouble.
If you haven't had your chimney inspected for several years, now's the time. Call in a professional chimney sweep (yes, they still exist; no the trade didn't go out with Mary Poppins) to have your chimney cleaned and inspected.
Why is chimney cleaning important? For starters, it's been unused all summer. Do you know that a family of birds hasn't built a nest on top of it, reducing or ruining its ventilating power? Do you know whether it's developed cracks or leaks that could reduce its draft while also posing a collapse? Of course you don't --and without an inspection your won't know until it's too late.
It is true, that the whole idea of a chimney is to be fireproof, but among the many combustion by-products that go up your chimney are flammable substances called creosotes. Being relatively heavy and oily, they cool quickly and deposit on your chimney walls instead of going all the way up and out. As creosote layers build up what can be ignited by heat or sparks, leaving you with a fire raging in your chimney. Some people think that a chimney fire will just clean-out the creosote. If you share the same thought, you are risking much more than loud roaring fire. More likely to rain burning debris into your furnace or fireplace -or shower hot sparks all over the neighborhood - or set fire to roofs and walls adjacent to the super-heated chimney.
You will want to take a couple of precautions before you use any heating source this season.
- Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to kindle or revive a fire-flammable vapors can easily travel the length of the of a room.
- To keep sparks from flying and igniting clothes or furniture, use glass doors or a screen that wrap fully around the fireplace/woodstove opening. A fireproof hearth rug is also a good idea. Wear tight fitting clothing when working with the fire; avoid balloon or draping sleeves.
- Keep children safely away from fireplaces, woodstoves, furnaces and space heaters.
- Be sure ashes have cooled thoroughly before you dispose of them. Place ashes in a sealed metal container way form the house.
- Annual service and maintenance is a must for woodstoves and fireplaces. Have ash and creosote build-up professionally removed, or do it yourself. Check the fireplace annually to be sure vents, flues and chimneys are in good working order, and to identify and structural damage.
- It is also a good idea to have your furnace inspected and maintained on annually.
How to Make a Great Escape Plan
Print out these instructions
to help you make your great escape plan!
Fire can grow very quickly. When the smoke alarm sounds, you need to know exactly what to do -- and the best way to be prepared is to have a fire escape plan.
Install at least one smoke alarm on each level of the home, and in or near each sleeping area. Remember to test the alarms every month by pushing the test button.
Use "The Great Escape" family planning grid to draw a floor plan of your home, marking all windows and doors. Be sure to include every household member in the creation of the plan.
Locate two escape routes from each room. The first way out would be the door, and the second way out could be a window.
Make sure escape doors and windows can be opened easily from the inside (security bars must have quick-release devices on the inside). In a two-story home, plan your escape through a window onto an adjacent roof or porch. If you must use an escape ladder, be sure everyone knows how to secure it on a window sill (because descending a ladder presents a risk of falling, the National Fire Protection Association recommends climbing down an escape ladder only in an emergency, but not in practice situations).
Choose a meeting place outside, a safe distance from the front of your home and mark it on the floor plan. A good meeting place would be a tree, telephone pole, mailbox or neighbor's home. In case of fire, everyone should gather at the meeting place. That way, you -- and the responding firefighters -- will know that everyone is out safely. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
Make sure your home has large address numbers on the front, and also place an address sign at the top of long driveways.
Test Your Detector!
A working smoke detector cuts the risk of dying in a home fire by nearly 50%. Yet almost one-third of the smoke detectors installed in homes fail to operate when fire strikes because of worn or missing batteries. Protect your safety by checking your detector at least once a month.
Mark Your Calendar
Fun stickers or notes on your calendar are a handy way to remember this important task. Simply place one on your family's calendar each month, as a reminder to test your detector!
Have a Battery Back-Up For Hard-Wired Smoke Detectors
If your home has smoke detectors wired into the house's electrical system, they should also be tested monthly. And -- because you still need a working smoke detector when the power is out -- your house should have battery-operated units as well.
Change the Batteries
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors at least once a year. Choose a date that is easy to remember, such as the day you change your clocks back in the fall. And, remember that the entire smoke detector must be replaced after ten years.
Dust Your Detector
Just as you can't smell when your nose is plugged, the smoke detector can't do its job when clogged with dust particles. Vacuum the face of your smoke detector at least once a year.
Like colored gold dust sparkling high in the sky, watching fireworks is a 4th of July tradition.
Fireworks contain explosive materials and only experts should handle them. There are some fireworks available for public use called "consumer fireworks". These fireworks include cone fountains, cylindrical fountains, roman candles, skyrockets, firecrackers, mines and shells, helicopter-type rockets, certain sparklers and revolving wheels. Stay away from anything that isn't clearly labeled with the name of the item, the manufacturer's name and instructions for proper use. Even these products should be used with caution and always with adult supervision.
Firework rockets work in a similar fashion to military rockets. A fuse ignites a combustible substance, which forms gases that jet out propelling the rocket upwards. Once the rocket is high in the sky, a second combustible substance explodes. The explosion releases firecrackers (causing the bang) and the colored sparkles.
Many different substances go into making fireworks. Coloring agents include: lithium for red, sodium for gold and yellow, copper to help create blue, barium for the green (it also help stabilize volatile elements). Titanium and iron help produce sparks and sulfur helps to fuel fireworks.
Remember, in the City of Walla Walla, fireworks may be sold only from July 1 - July 3 from 9am to 11pm.
Use of Fireworks is allowed only on July 4 from 9am until 12am on July 5.
The following kinds of fireworks are restricted in the City of Walla Walla;
- Any firework specifically designed to produce a loud noise such as whistles, explosions or reports
- Any firework device not defined as a nonaerial common firework
To help you celebrate safely this Fourth of July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Council on Fireworks Safety, and the City of Walla Walla offer the following safety tips:
- Always read and follow label directions
- Have an adult present
- Buy from reliable fireworks sellers
- Ignite outdoors
- Have water handy
- Never experiment or attempt to make your own fireworks
- Light one at a time
- Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks
- Never give fireworks to small children
- Store in a cool, dry place
- Dispose of properly
- Never throw fireworks at another person
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket
- Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass container