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Chimney Fire in smoke dragon...

Post in 'Classic Wood Stove Forums (prior to approx. 1993)' started by nate379, Jan 30, 2012.

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  1. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I was talking to my brother today and he was telling me that he had a chimney fire a few days ago. Sorry if this is a bit long but I want to explain everything.

    Chimney is a brick unit about 30ft tall that has a cast in place liner for the bottom ~15-20ft (supaflu) then the top part was rebuilt this summer with round clay tile and brick. 7" round opening from top to bottom.
    Long story short, they bought the house this spring and the chimney was unfit for use. It had an 8x12" flue that was not lined and it was coming apart.
    He hired a contractor to make repairs, he did the cast in place liner. Next came a next roof and come to find out the chimney guy didn't do the work correctly, the outside part was just "lipstick on a hog"!
    My brother hired another guy and they went ahead and rebuilt the chimney from the bottom of attic level up using a 7" round clay liner to match the cast in place liner.


    He is using a borrowed stove which is of unknown brand. It's fairly new, he thinks it was built in Minnesota if I remember right. It has maybe a 2 cu ft fire box and then the box is wrapped in metal and there is a duct that comes off the top to push the heat to wherever (cage blower under the stove). It's a "smoke dragon". I know he has 2 dampers inline on the stove pipe because the draft is really strong.
    (My Dad had to do that as well in his workshop)

    Wood he is burning is at least 2-3 years seasoned, maybe longer. He bought several cords from his father in law to get through for this winter. The FIL is like most of us where is he many years ahead with his wood.


    Burning roughly 24/7 and chimney has been cleaned it every 1-2 weeks. Everytime the stove gets emptied of ash the chimney gets cleaned. My brother uses a poly brush and does a bottom up cleaning. Poly brush because I guess the Supaflu would get damaged with a metal brush.



    The chimney fire happened when he was at home. He was working in the basement, pouring concrete to repair some floor damage. He opened the stove door to toss in a couple empty concrete bags and he got the freight train rumbling. At first just figured it was just from the draft, but he dialed it down and it continued and was getting worse. Went outside and 3-4ft flames where coming out the stack.
    It ended up going out on it's own as his friend was on his way with fire gear (small town and he is the closest volunteer firefighter)
    No damage in the end, all was ok.

    Cleaned the chimney out the next morning and pulled out about 3/4 full on a 5 gal pail! When he was cleaning it out before he would get a dustpan full, maybe a cup if that. That seemed normal, I wouldn't expect to have all that much creosote when burning good wood and cleaning often.


    Of course he is worried now. Did everything "by the book" and even well above and beyond with the flue cleaning and STILL had a fire. Any ideas on what might have caused this? Poly brush not working?

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  2. Woodrow

    Woodrow New Member

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    I've read about the various types of creosote. Some are readily removed with a brush, and others are not. The glossy, hardened creosote (i.e. the worst kind) must be removed with solvents and multiple cleanings. It can very thick too. Is that what happened to him? He was cleaning the light stuff off of the glossy hardened creosote which remained behind to burn the way it did?
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Maybe a huge temperature drop due to the extraordinary cold spell is condensing creosote? What's the exterior exposure to the chimney? I'm wondering what an IR gun would record for temps at the flue cap here.
  4. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Brother lives in Maine, it's been pretty warm there, 20s-30s.

    Chimney is in the middle of the house, from basement to rooftop. Only part that would be exposed to cold would be the last ~7-8ft that is in the attic and outside.

    No cap on the flue, not very common to have one in those parts. I had never seen one before I put my stove in with a metal chimney.
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    If not AK, somehow I suspect a disconnect in the story. Maybe the wood is not as seasoned as expected? But if he is running the stove really badly in the mild weather, that may also be an explanation. Has he described to you his normal burning practices?
  6. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I can describe the setup quite well because I stayed over his place for several days about a month ago (during Christmas).

    The wood was cut, split and stacked several years ago. I helped him bring some in, all very dry, probably even drier than the stuff I'm burning that was cut/split/stacked in 2009.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    It's hard to guess third-hand. Something is causing condensation in the flue. If the wood is dry then perhaps the stove is being run low and slow constantly? Maybe it's simply a case of a smoke dragon with a heat robber that is sending too cold flue gases up the chimney. Does he have a flue thermometer? If so, what are the temps? Another possibility is an air leak that is cooling down the flue badly. Is there a clean out door at the bottom of the chimney?

    Now that there has been a chimney fire, is he going to have the system camera inspected?
  8. budman

    budman Minister of Fire

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    Burning emptey concrete bags in the stove he must be putting all his garbage in that stove.
  9. woodsmaster

    woodsmaster Minister of Fire

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    With the mild weather he has probably been smoldering the fire. Then the paper going up the chim. caught the creasote
    on fire. a brush wont remove that shiny creasote. probably needs to use a chemical traetment every other week
    or better yet burn small hot fires.
  10. Chettt

    Chettt Feeling the Heat

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    Some area was not getting clean and it ignited.
  11. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    My thought too. Something couldn't get cleaned and the heat caused a bunch of creosote that was being mixed to come down or change to a form that was brushable. Also, did he describe the creosote to you? Creosote can expand when heated, so the 3/4 of a 5 gal bucket he picked up may have been some creostoe that expanded from the heat but didn't burn all the way?

    If he is cleaning every 1 to 2 weeks, there is NO reason there should be a chimney fire, even though he tried using his stove for something it was not designed to do (burning those bags).

    Now that he's had a fire, considering his schedule, the best advice I could give him right now (as BG mentioned as well) is to have a sweep come out and run a camera up and down this thing and try to find out if things are still OK and look for any possible faults that could have helped lead to this.

    pen
  12. albertj03

    albertj03 Minister of Fire

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    30' chimney with two dampers in the stove pipe? I've got a 40' chimney with one damper and barley ever have to use it. Could be choking the the draft down too much and causing the excessive build up. Even a dust pan of creosote a week sounds like way too much to me.
  13. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    No, he seperates the trash and only paper/cardboard goods get burned. I don't see any issue with this, afterall it's just a form of wood. It's not like the stove gets packed full constantly, more like a walmart bag full to put in to start a fire.
    My parents do the same with their trash as well. The plastic, food scraps, etc. go to the dump.

    I'll have to ask on the flue temps. He has a guage on it.
  14. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    In addition to suggesting he doesn't burn any more concrete bags, I'd take the cardboard and such off the good to burn list as well. That stuff can burn hot if more than a piece at a time is placed in there.

    I think a good phone chat is in order for you and him or else he needs to get on this website if he's of the type that is willing to learn.

    pen
  15. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I told him about the site a while back and he reads the posts on here from time to time. The internet he has at his house goes off a cell connection and it's not very fast/reliable so he doesn't mess with it much. (Phone lines are too old for DSL and no cable)

    Most all the info both me and him have came from my Dad, who taught us how to burn proper way before the internet came around.

    While I will agree that the hot fire from the bags probably caused the cresote to light, burning paper/cardboard wasn't the REASON for the build up, that is what has me confused. I could understand if he hasn't cleaned the chimney, but that thing should have been darn near white glove inspectable with cleaning it every few weeks.
  16. Redbear86

    Redbear86 Member

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    +1 -- sounds like he's choking things down too much, probably very small smoldering fires or he wouldn't need two dampers
  17. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Yeah, that sounds like a possibility. I don't know why the brushing wouldn't have kept it clean though?

    Also I noticied that this thread is in the "1969-1989" stove section. I'm not sure how come, I didn't put it here. The stove is not very old.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    This is also the home of non-EPA stoves. Nate, can you find out the make/model of the stove?
  19. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Stove can be an EPA stove and still make glaze creosote if choked way down with very dry wood. My ex-landlord is burning in a new Quadra Fire and the sweep that cleaned both of our flues told me he swept over 5 gallons of flaky creosote out of his flue and there was about 1/4" of glaze creosote that he couldn't budge. I know he chokes his stove way down to try to save on wood because he told me so. He laughed about it, but I'd be plenty worried if it was my home.
  20. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    My brother thinks he figured it out.

    In Maine you can have an oil burner and wood stove on the same flue, which he does.

    The oil burner has a barometric draft control which wasn't adjusted correctly. He had a new heating system put in this fall and the contractor had not had a chance to do the final tuning of the burner.

    So, when the wood stove was going, the oil burner barometric draft was allowing cold air into the chimney, which was making a glaze type creosote.

    He blocked the oil burners draft off and the stove is burning much differently.

    The oil burner still needs to be usable, so I don't think the damper can stay blocked off, but I would imagine with it adjusted correctly it will be ok.

    Also he bought some kind of chemical that you put in the fire to help break up the glaze. He may end up just having a setup that needs a couple doses of that stuff a winter to keep the chimney happy.
  21. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    This is one of the reasons why wood stoves are not allowed to share a common flue in the rest of the country. I don't see adjusting the barometric as a fix here because what is optimal for the wood stove (no air leakage) is not going to be optimal for the oil burner.
  22. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    The stove and oil burner sharing isn't ideal but it can be made to work.

    They spent alot of money on the house over the summer with septic work, new roof, complete oil fired hot water heating system and lots of other stuff so the wood stove he is using is just temporary. Ran out of time and money to put in a wood fired boiler.

    It's alot less painful to heat an old drafty farmhouse with near free wood vs $3.something a gal fuel oil.
  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Saving money at the risk of losing the house sounds like bad economics.
  24. coaly

    coaly Fisher Moderator Staff Member

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    There are too many unanswered questions as to IF this is a legal installation.
    First, you mentioned it is a borrowed stove. Second you mention it is fairly new.
    The Maine Standards do not include "Listed" appliances. (they must be installed as per installation instructions) So if this is a newer listed stove, chances are the installation instructions prohibit flue sharing. If he doesn't have the manual for the stove, it can not be installed legally since those instructions are what govern the installation.
    http://www.maine.gov/doc/initiatives/wood_to_energy/docs/woodstoves.pdf
    See III Chimneys b. Multiple Connections on page 11.

    The law you are referring to is a "grandfather clause" for stoves sharing a flue that were installed before Feb. 2 1998. You can't go out and buy a new stove and connect it to a shared chimney with an oil burner.

    This was passed in the Fall of 2008;

    An Act To Permit the Use of a Common Flue for Oil and Solid Fuel Burning Equipment

    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:
    Sec. 1. 25 MRSA §2465, sub-§1-A, as enacted by PL 2005, c. 571, §1, is amended to read:
    1-A. Routine technical rules. The Commissioner of Public Safety shall adopt rules pertaining to the construction, installation, maintenance and inspection of chimneys, fireplaces, vents and solid fuel burning appliances. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection may include rules pertaining to maintenance and inspections, except as provided in subsection 1-B. Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection may not prohibit the continued use of an existing connection of a solid fuel burning appliance to a chimney flue to which another appliance burning oil or solid fuel is connected for any chimney existing and in use prior to February 2, 1998 as long as sufficient draft is available for each appliance, the chimney is lined and structurally intact and a carbon monoxide detector is installed in the building near a bedroom.
  25. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Instead of me guessing with all this I will see if my brother can answer these questions.

    It is interesting to know about the 1998 cut off.
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