Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to safely contain wood-fuel fires, while providing heat for a home. The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the by-products of combustion – the substances produced when wood burns. These include smoke, water vapor, gases, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbon, tar fog and assorted minerals. As these substances exit the fireplace or wood stove, and flow up into the relatively cooler chimney, condensation occurs. The resulting residue that sticks to the inner walls of the chimney is called creosote.
Creosote is black or brown in appearance. It can be crusty and flaky…tar-like, drippy and sticky…or shiny and hardened. Often, all forms will occur in one chimney system. Whatever form it takes, creosote is highly combustible. If it builds up in sufficient quantities – and the internal flue temperature is high enough – the result could be a chimney fire.
Industrial chimney fires burn ferociously igniting in a matter of seconds from years of built up scale or by-product. These fires can burn at 2100 degrees F. They frequently melt dampers and chimney caps, and can actually "melt" mortar! Flames and dense smoke rush out of the chimney and into plant areas with extreme force and with such pressure and extreme heat that anything in its path will be completely destroyed including your valuable facility, inventory, and years of hard work. More importantly and tragically, employee death and/or injury may result! The only true fire safety is prevention through industrial chimney cleaning and inspection on frequent intervals.