How do I Prevent a Flue Fire?

Harriette Halepis

Each year, many homes are lost to fires. A good number of these losses are the direct result of a flue fire. This type of fire occurs when creosote within a chimney has had time to accumulate. Creosote is created when certain types of wood are burned at high temperature, causing a thick, highly flammable, material to form. Sadly, most flue fires can be prevented with some easy maintenance and general know-how.

Cardboard boxes and plastic bags should never be placed inside of a fire.
Cardboard boxes and plastic bags should never be placed inside of a fire.

The best way to prevent a flue fire is to hire a professional chimney sweep once per year. These professionals can remove any amount of dangerous build-up from a chimney. Aside from making sure that your chimney is cleaned properly each year, there are certain things that can be done during a winter season to prevent creosote from developing. The first step is to know how to build the right kind of fire.

Proper chimney and flue construction are crucial to maintaining the safety of wood-burning fireplaces in homes.
Proper chimney and flue construction are crucial to maintaining the safety of wood-burning fireplaces in homes.

While constructing a fire may seem relatively straightforward, this isn't the case. Rather than building a large fire, try and build smaller fires that contain a larger amount of heat. This way, the debris from the fire will head directly up the chimney at a rapid pace, which will eliminate any possible build-up. Also, make sure that the wood you use is dry, not wet.

Wet wood produces a lot more soot than dry wood does. The best kind of wood to use for a fire is dry seasoned wood. Seasoned wood is not green in color, while wood that is not seasoned will take on a green appearance. Packaged logs that can be purchased in stores will produce a smaller amount of soot than any kind of natural wood. When it comes to paper, keep in mind that large gobs of paper will often cause a flue fire to break-out.

When large amounts of paper and cardboard have been burned, the result is an excessive amount of creosote. Cardboard boxes and plastic bags should never be placed inside of a fire. These items contain a vast amount of chemicals that lend themselves to creosote build-up. In addition, burning plastic and cardboard creates an intense fire that can easily blaze out of control. In short, reserve any boxes or bags for your recycling bin, not for your fireplace.

To keep your fireplace relatively clean throughout the year, try adding a small amount of salt to a fire. Salt acts as a natural cleanser that will help to remove interior build-up. While salt is a great trick, this remedy should not be used in place of a proper fireplace cleaning. Clearly, a flue fire can be easily prevented by following the steps listed in this article. While going through all of these steps may seem like a lot of trouble, watching your home go up in flames thanks to a flue fire is a lot worse.

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Discussion Comments


For anyone who is interested, you can also buy logs that remove creosote from your chimney and fireplace. There are plenty of stores selling the logs and you can also find them online.

The logs come in a box. You remove them from the box and there is another wrapper that covers the log. You simply place the log, wrapper and all, on an existing fire and let it burn down. As the log burns it is supposed to remove creosote from the fireplace and of course, the chimney.

Animandel - Yes, the chimney sweep is alive and well. I have a friend who used to be a school teacher. Then one summer he got the idea that he could make a decent living cleaning chimneys and fire flues.

Since the fall was the busiest time for chimney cleaning, as people began to prepare for the winter, my friend took a month off from teaching in October to work as a chimney sweep. In that one month, he made more money than he was making at the time for teaching an entire school year.

He finished the year out teaching then became a full time chimney sweep. This was years ago, but he still has plenty of chimneys to clean. And like the article says, my friend always tells me that creosote is the biggest danger with a fireplace.


I didn't know that chimney sweep was an actual job title anymore. I remember several chimney sweeps from the books I read and the movies I watched as a kid, but I had no idea people still made a living cleaning chimneys today.

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