Feedback: More on Chimney Fires

Paul Stevens shares feedback and fire safety tips on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Stovepipe Power article after experiencing a chimney fire in his own home.
By Paul Stevens
September/October 1975
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Cook states that the wood of coniferous trees will leave flue-clogging residues when burned, and one of the firemen from the local volunteer fire department warned us that green hardwood fuel will also cause dangerous deposits.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/W DOERING


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MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 31 got here early on a Monday, but it was late in the evening before I had a chance to sit down and read the issue . . . and when I saw page 30 — the one with Sherman S. Cook's feedback on A. Michael Wassil's "Stovepipe Power" — I laughed so hard I had to put the magazine down.

You see, the reason I hadn't been able to got to MOTHER earlier that day was the raging chimney fire we had in our chimney. "Such a blaze goes like a blowtorch," says Cook. You'd better believe it! I learned a lot about mishaps of that kind in just a few hours, and I thought I'd pass along some of the info I picked up.

Cook states that the wood of coniferous trees will leave flue-clogging residues when burned, and one of the firemen from the local volunteer fire department warned us that green hardwood fuel will also cause dangerous deposits. The same follow told me he'd once visited a garage that was being kept warm by a wood stove, and seen a chimney fire extinguished by a quick thinking mechanic. Seems the workman noticed that the pipe was glowing an unhealthy red, filled a bucket with water, and pried the column of hot metal loose from the heater. With the pipe gripped between two sticks, he lifted the pipe free and into the pail so that the opening was almost submerged. The smaller air intake forced the velocity of the updraft to increase . . . and the upward rush of gases carried with it a fine spray of water which was sufficient to put the fire out.

Old Bill Shildroth from down the road dropped by today with some useful advice on the same subject: "You just take your Pyrene extinguisher, pull the lid off the stove, and give her a shot. That'll blow a chimney fire right out. The chemicals got sucked straight up the pipe and them flames'll die fast."

Someone mentioned the commercial preparations that can be added to a fire to help keep the flue free of soot. Bill just smiled and said, "You know what that stuff is, don't you? Just salt, that's all. Sure, you throw on a couple of handfuls of salt once in a while and that'll clean 'er right down to the red brick. Make your pipes shine too."

After Bill left, I went out to clean the chimney . . . and here's one way to do it: Get yourself approximately 20 feet of chain and double it about three times. Then tie a long piece of rope to the middle of the bundle, so that you have maybe 20 feet of cord with a lot of loose chain at one end. Finally, climb up on your roof and spend five or ten minutes sliding the bunch of metal up and down the inside of the chimney. You'll be left with a remarkably clean flue.

Before I say goodbye, I'd like to recommend secondhand bookstores as a good source of how to literature. Over a six month period I was able to come up with Pears Cyclopedia of American Agriculture, a four-volume set covering every crop or animal raised in North America from the beginning of time to 1907 — the date of publication — for $20.00; Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Library, 14 volumes, circa 1949, for $18.00; and Popular Science Do-It-Yourself Library, 13 volumes, circa 1949, for $21.00. I also picked up Tickner Edwards' Lore of the Honeybee, 1929, and Elmer C. Rice's How to Live on $1.00 a Week or How to Earn $100 a Week, 1939, for only pennies each.

Well, I'll move on now and let the next feller or gal have his or her say. Thanks for listening.


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