Close call with a chimney fire

Well this morning was a close call. I am pretty sure we almost had a chimney fire on our hands. In normal cool weather we let the wood stove die out overnight and in the morning start a new one. There are usually only a few coals left.

The last couple nights its been cold, -19C to -21 C (-2 to -6 F). So I’ve been getting up at 3-4 am and loading the stove again. As per usual, last night I loaded the stove at 11pm and went to bed. I got up at 3:30 am…

and all that was left was a bed of coals. I loaded the stove about 3/4 full with small split wood (4 inch diameter wood that had been split in half). I stayed up for 10 mins and slowly closed down the draft and left it at the 2nd mark on the left (Harman Oakwood stove).

This morning we got up at 6:30 am, it was quite cool in the house, wall thermometer said it was 18 C (64 C). The temp probe on the chimney showed 200 F (barely warm). I looked in through the glass of the wood stove door and could barely see through it, covered in black. It wasn’t like that last night. So I opened the draft to half full and I could start to see embers starting to glow.

The following happened in about 60 seconds.

So as per usual I figured all that was left were a few coals. I slide the draft al the way to the right and opened the back damper. Then I opened the top access door. To my surprise the wood I had put it there was mostly still there, but coal black. So I closed the top and walked to the bathroom 10 ft away, while Gina stood next to the wood stove. Within 5 seconds Gina called out “Jim come here, should the chimney be making that noise?” I come out of the bathroom. The stove had gone from 200F to 600F and roaring like a freight train.

Incredible how fast that can occur. Not only was the stove making that ticking sound really fast but we could hear cracking sounds from the chimney. Chimney fire? Jesus. I closed the damper immediately and slide the draft to half. I didn’t want to close the air off all the way because past experience has shown us that doing so causes gases to build up in the stove and explode. 30 seconds later the stove was still roaring and was now up to 800F. Okay, now I am officially worried. I closed the draft completely and quickly ran outside to see what the chimney was doing. Was flames or flankers shooting out? No, just a little bit of smoke. Thank goodness.

Back inside. The stove seems to have levelled out to 900F. So there we both sat for a minute, reassessing what just happened, watching the stove cool down to about 600F. I opened the stove up again to have a look, and all that blackened wood had disintegrated to coals.

A sigh of relief, as I would consider that a close call.

A Newfoundland born Canadian with a life long interest in woodworking, baking and anything else that peaks my curiosity.

One Comment

  • Jim Barry

    This morning its a totally different situation. Same situation as previous night; up at 3am, loaded the stove and stayed up 10 min to slowly turn down the draft. Up at 6 am and there’s plenty of coals and about half the wood still burning. This time we only opened up the draft and kept the damper closed. Resulting in no significant uptick in chimney temp. Harman Oakwood wood stove

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