An Overland Park, Kansas family was enjoying the football game on Sunday January 20, 2013 when a chimney fire erupted and spread to other areas. Homeowner Kerry Hefley said that his cracked chimney may have contributed to the fire. The chimney was damaged during the drought experienced in the K.C. metro area last summer
Hefley said he and his family lit a fire to enjoy while they watched Sunday’s NFL championship games. “About an hour later, we noticed smoke coming up through the second floor, and the chimney box got pretty hot,” Hefley said.
But Hefley, who is in the building business, said he thinks the extended drought may have caused his chimney to crack, helping to cause the fire. “We get a lot of cracks and damaged foundation calls because there has been such a drought,” Hefley said.
He said he doesn’t use the fireplace often. It was last examined two years ago.
“(Inspections) should be done by a pro. It should be done every year,” said Capt. Dan McDonall of the Overland Park Fire Department. “Most folks think, ‘Well, I don’t burn that much, so there is no creosote building (up). But there could be a hidden danger, like it’s not drafting properly.”
Professional chimney sweeps use internal inspection cameras to inspect chimneys for problems, then report their findings to the homeowner. The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends that a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep do an inspection after a chimney fire has occurred in order to evaluate the damages and suggest repair methods. Chimney fire damage can be costly, so it is best to have an annual inspection and sweeping as necessary in order to reduce the fire risk.
Captain Dan McDonall of the Overland Park Fire Department said that most folks don’t understand the hidden dangers associated with chimneys such as flammable creosote build up and downdrafts.
“The weather is cold now. People are starting to use fireplaces. Get them checked out. It could save your life,” Hefley said.
Professional chimney sweeps report that chimneys start to fail after 25 to 30 years under normal use conditions. Many fireplaces in the Kansas City area are much older than that and have never been inspected by a qualified professional. The recent drought can cause additional problems which allow fire to escape the chimney into the home.
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council offers free homeowner tips on their website and free speakers for meetings in the greater Kansas City area. Visit www.mcsc-net.org for more information.