The downside of burning wood for heat…..(otherwise known as f*&!!$%@ing insurance co’s!!!!)

Now first I have to state that the upsides of heating the house with wood outweigh the about to be mentioned downside enough that we will continue to heat with wood.

The major downside?  Chimney fires.  Yup.  Fun.  The same Monday we had to clean 21 inches of snow out of the driveway we had a chimney fire.  It was at least partially our fault, we were perhaps not as OCD about keeping the chimney clean as we should have been (I was only vaguely aware that you have to clean the chimney multiple times through out the season, guess I shoulda followed up on that huh?).  But on the evidence presented to us when they opened up the chimney it wasn’t completely our fault, infact the stainless steel pipe shows signs of having had previous fires in it.  Basically it was badly rusted, which stainless doesn’t do till its been heated too hot, which means it had a fire, possibly several, in it previously and was never taken care of.

The good news is that I was paying attention to my surroundings and so there is NO damage to the house itself.  The metal chimney pipe has to be replaced, but the house itself isn’t even crispy. 

You know how in the news people will say they didn’t know the chimney was on fire till they smelled smoke?  Yah…..that smoke is the HOUSE burning.  Long before it gets to THAT point it makes a horrid rushing sound (freight trains anyone?) combined with a LOUD cracking/popping/snapping sound OVER YOUR HEAD in the chimney. 

So on hearing that noise a quick check outside showed me the chimney cap glowing red hot and showering enough sparks to make a sparkler proud.  Went back inside, put OUT the fire in the wood stove, closed damper and door, called 911, and evacuated both cats, puppy and myself to the unattached carport (not nearly far enough should there have been a major fire, but about as far as I could manage the 3 animals by myself in temps of low teens, we’re going to have to figure out a better method for future problems).  At that point I called my husband, got his voicemail (expected, he can’t answer the phone at work) and left a message stating “the chimney’s on fire I need you home” and hung up.  (Poor guy promptly panicked, by the time he was trying to call me back the fire trucks were on scene and I couldn’t hear the phone, he made the 1/2hr drive home in 20 minutes.)

The fire department was delightfully quick in arriving, not more than a couple minutes after I got everyone outside, I was impressed, but by the time they got there the fact that I had put out the main fire was already showing as the chimney cap was no longer glowing and there were hardly any sparks, though the firemen did confirm the presence of embers in the chimney elbow.

We contact two different chimney companies the next day to come out and give us quotes, and they were both out in less than 24hrs to do so.  We contacted the insurance company at the same time we called the chimney guys….it took them over a week to get their inspector out, another 4 days to tell us what they were going to cover, and we’re STILL waiting for the check.

In the mean time we’ve fired up the main furnace to keep the house warm and I’m not happy about it, infact I’m decidedly tempted to send the insurance the bill for the fuel we’re using since the delay has been their fault.  Before the fire (we checked the Sunday before) we’d used barely 1/4 tank of fuel this winter.  I’m not looking forward to checking it again after this is over.

On a related note I have to recommend the First Alert Tundra Fire extinguisher to everyone.  (note, it was cheaper at my local grocery store than listed on Amazon, and I’m not getting paid in anyway for this).  They’re small enough to keep in a cabinet anywhere, powerfull enough to put out a nicely burning wood fire, work on wood, grease, and electrical fires, and are small enough for small hands to use comfortably.  I WILL be buying several more to keep around the house!  We have a couple larger “standard” fire extinguishers around the house, but this was more convenient, and MUCH easier to use than the larger canisters.

2 Comments

  1. Comment by Bogie:

    That was CLOSE. Glad everything worked out fairly well (a LOT better than it could have been).

  2. Comment by Ruth:

    Tons and tons better than it could have been, if it had been after we went to bed we'd have been lucky to be woken up by the smoke alarm (both of us are pretty heavy sleepers).