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O boy chimney fire:(

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by swagler85, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    So yesterday I reloaded the stove on a very small bed of coals. So I let the air open to get it started. Well during this process my 19 month old climbed onto the kitchen counter and fell on her head. So I'm upstairs taking care of her for a while when I suddenly remember I have the air wide open on the Stove. I run downstairs and the stove is blazing away. Surface temp on the stovetop is at about 1000°, And I can see through the gasket where the pipe comes out of the top of there's a chimney fire going. I shut down the air, O boy I ran outside nothing coming out of the top of the chimney. Running back inside I check the stove and make sure that everything is okay on it. Seems that heat had pushed the top plate up a little bit where the chimney outlet is. That had let me see through the gasket on the stack. Scary! After it cooled down its much better, I can just barely see where it had heaved up, and the gasket sealed tight again. It's maybe a 1/16' up across the whole top. No welds broke and still seems to be airtight. Should I be worried further?

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  2. pen

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

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    Might not have been a chimney fire (especially if you cleaned your chimney before this season started). It might have simply been that you overheated that connector and saw it glowing since you were shoving so much heat through it.

    To be on the safe side, I'd inspect that chimney, look for creosote that looks puffy, as that would be one indicator of a chimney fire, look for any defects / problems that arose from being heated like crazy, and run the brush though while you are there.

    As far as the top being 1/16th out, are you certain it wasn't that way before? Regardless, if it's sealing now, you should be OK.

    Also, get yourself a kitchen timer, the digital ones with a clip can be hooked right to your pocket. Leave it next to the stove, and set it for X time anytime you reload and leave the air open, then carry it with you. When you go back to close the air down, just leave it by the stove till next time. The key is just getting in the habit of using it and you shouldn't have to worry about getting stains out of your shorts again.

    Hope the little one is doing OK as well.

    pen
  3. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    Whew, I bet I'd need a change of shorts after that. I think I'd take another look at everything and if all was well I'd start with a small fires and slowly work up to larger ones to gain my confidence again.

    Did the little one come out ok?

    Matt
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    +1 on the timer. Get one that beeps loudly and that is persistent. You want one that doesn't go off until you turn it off.
  5. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    It doesn't really sound like a full-fledged chimney fire. You might have had a "stovepipe fire". I had this happen a couple years ago. If you have any leaks in your stovepipe at all, you might find that the stovepipe builds up creasote even if your chimney is staying clean. Send enough heat/flames up the flue and that stuff will ignite. All in all, it's a much less intense event than a full on chimney fire but still not a good situation.

    Definitely inspect and clean your chimney and stovepipe closely. Not much else you can do.
  6. mfglickman

    mfglickman Minister of Fire

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    Yikes. I can totally see that happening with little ones in the house. Hope all is OK!
  7. corey21

    corey21 Minister of Fire

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    Hope everything is OK.
  8. etiger2007

    etiger2007 Minister of Fire

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    I just had about the same incident a couple weeks ago, the top of the unit was starting to glow red and the liner was red as well. The next day I did a visual inspection of the unit (insert and liner) and popped the chimney cap off and inspected it for anything out of the norm. I lit a small load of kindling just to make sure all was good before I addded more wood. In my case everything was ok. Im glad you were able to get everything under control and you guys are safe. Hope the one who bumped their head is ok as well.
  9. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the answers, little one is ok :) just a knot on her head now.
    Stove checked out alright and is back up and running after a small test fire this am. Looked over everything again and looks good. I will inspect the chimney if it warms up a bit and I dont run the stove for part of the day.
  10. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Sounds like you are saying the top plate is warped. Keep an eye on it and when the stove cools down check the welds between the top plate and the rest of the stove body.
  11. Woodrow

    Woodrow New Member

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    If the gasket sealing surface is slightly warped or degenerated, it may pose a safety hazard. Even if it appears sealed during normal operation, it may overheat again in the future. If a fire starts in the throat again and the sealing surface is not airtight (due to heat distortion), even shutting off air to the stove will not shut off air being sucked through the warped sealing surface. A pipe fire could sustain under these conditions and there's little you could do to stop it other than spraying water or CO2 into the sealing area. I'd have it reworked and replace the gasket until it's rock solid again. I had a fire happen in the throat of my ZC stove because of this exact situation and fire came out of the warped sealing surface which quickly ignited the wood framework on the chimney.
  12. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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    Awww! I have a little girl who is a year and a half. That had to suck on many levels! How was the chimney? Was it recently clean? If it was, there probably wasnt much material there to burn, so you just over heated everything. If it was a while, then maybe it was a fire.

    Many sweeps have cameras to scope out the chimney... it will cost a few bucks, but add to your comfort level.
  13. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    Chimney was cleaned right before burnin season started so now I'm thinking it was just an over fire and probably secondary burn that traveled up the flu. I've been keeping an eye on it and seems to be good. Lil one is back to her ornery and playful self:)
  14. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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    yeah, if it was just cleaned, you didnt have anything in there to burn. So it wasnt a chimney fire, just an overfire. not the worse thing to have happen
  15. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    as far as getting it reworked, would you just take it to a metal shop and have them grind it down?
  16. Woodrow

    Woodrow New Member

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    Not sure, it depends on the situation. What may have happened in your case, is that unless your stove is a modern EPA stove with secondary air tubes or cat, the unburned smoke may have been burning in the throat in "secondary mode." By that I mean, due to the poor sealing surface on the gasket area, this may have admitted air (i.e. oxygen) into the pipe section where there is both unburned smoke and intense heat. This essentially turns your throat area into an afterburner, similar to that in a fighter jet engine. The smoke is being burned in the same way it is in an EPA stove with secondary air tubes. Oxygen is joined with intensely hot smoke (i.e. unburned hydrocarbons) which causes a secondary fire. This fire is very hot and in an area not designed for that kind of heat. This can and will warp the gasket surface and, under the right circumstances, actually come out of the warped flange and enter areas that are completely unprotected from fire. What should be done about it? If you could see the fire through the gap, even if just temporarily, IMO that's too much of a gap. I'm not a stove expert so take my opinion for what it's worth. But I speak from experience on this exact subject, so please consider what I have to say.
  17. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    Took the flue apart today and noticed that all three bolts to hold the gasket down tight to the stove were loose. Explains my being able to see fire. But there is still a bit of warp on the top plate. My question that really can't be answered is was it like that before? As far as the bolts being loose that us something I should have checked when I cleaned the chimney. Won't happen again.
  18. WhitePine

    WhitePine Feeling the Heat

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    Chimney fire = sound like a jet engine at full military and visible waves of heat coming out of the chimney. That was my experience back in the early 80's when I heated with wood using an insert. I didn't wonder if I had a chimney fire. I knew damn well I had one. Fortunately it self limited and went out after a couple of minutes with no damage.

    That was pre EPA stove days. Normally, the chimney smoked some when I was burning. Not during that chimney fire, though. All the smoke was incinerated by the blow torch effect. I'm not saying all chimney fires are like that, but that was my experience at the time.
  19. tlc1976

    tlc1976 New Member

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    I had this happen before, quite a few years ago. I always just considered it a chimney fire, never knew there was a difference. I hadn't cleaned the pipe for 2 1/2 weeks and we came home after a weekend storm and just wanted to get the house warm. Was my own fault, I knew I was probably overfiring and was definitely getting that smell. After shutting off the air I was able to get it out by wrapping wet towels repeatedly around the pipe. Was scary because I could see the pipe overheating and smoking and it moving up the pipe and I did call the fire dept but I had it out by the time they showed up. Even a couple hours later after the pipe had cooled there were hot chunks in it when I took the pipe apart to clean it. Was ironic that we were getting ready to watch a movie on IFC that we had been waiting to see for a long time, called Quest For Fire. Due to the situation we totally missed the movie and never saw it again but we certainly found fire.

    I've also had it happen a couple other times in the past but learned to recognize what I call "that cigarette smoke smell" which is burning creosote and knew to shut the air off to make it stop. I also look through the damper shaft hole at the base of the connector quite regularly to make sure it is not glowing.

    I've learned that the pipe just plain needs cleaned every 2 weeks max, and ironically that's what it says on a label on the stove. Even though most people I know go more like 2 months or even 2 years between cleanings. And I tap on the pipe quite often to listen to whether it rings (clean) or thuds (dirty). I also smack it quite often to see if any loose creosote rains down.

    Maybe what you describe is the reason for it. The only pipe I can get from the hardware store is that split pipe and it always leaves gaps and air leaks because it is just not that round. I also have to keep a fan behind the stove and pipe to push the air out of the corner to avoid overheating the corner and get the heat to the rest of the house. This probably adds to the problem of forcing air into the pipe gaps. The stove pipe is horrible and has a ton of creosote if I let it go 2-3 weeks that looks like giant black flakes of Special K, but the chimney is often very clean.

    As long as I can run a small wide open fire, it minimizes it but still builds up. Turning it down for the night really accelerates the buildup and it's a fine line on the air control which I have gotten quite familar wth. And if it happens to go out and smolder, you might as well clean it next chance you get. The ex wife used to run it and then get too warm and shut it off completely and let it smolder and make a mess.

    One thing I have been using the past couple years and really works is Rutland creosote remover. No it doesn't work magic and remove the creosote. But it really helps it keep from sticking in the first place, and it makes the stove pipe a lot easier to clean.
  20. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    TLC1976, You can order the correct flue materials on line from several suppliers. The pipe you are describing is incorrect for a flue. Even the cheap single wall Black pipe would be a better option( not my recommendation though) black double wall to transition unit then triple wall the rest of the way. If the pipe you are using is galvanized that is even worse
  21. nola mike

    nola mike Feeling the Heat

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    Haven't heard that suggestion before, that's great. I bet we're all guilty of meaning to turn down the air, but getting distracted by something shiny in the other room...
  22. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Glad the toddler is OK! Sounds like you overfired your stove with a self-cleaning cycle but it appears your stove is OK.. Pen gave some solid advice and I think we all have overfired our stoves at some time. It is easy to overfire when there are little ones around for sure!

    Ray
  23. tlc1976

    tlc1976 New Member

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    Thanks. I'll have to look around. Yes I do know the dangers of using galvanized pipe for heating. This is the single wall black split pipe that you have to snap together, you find it at any place that sells woodstoves. I wonder what you would use it for if it's not for this. That runs from the stove, about 5 feet straight up to the firestop spacer. That is at least double wall and runs through the attic. Then there is the actual chimney pipe which is at least double wall and twist-lock sections which goes up another 8 feet or so.

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