Tuesday, March 3, 2009
What's That Smell?
Mrs. H claims she can't see that great, sometimes I swear she can't hear, but one thing I have learned is that you can always trust her sense of smell. So...whenever her smell sense is activated it behooves me to stand up and take notice. She has caught the scent of bears in the woods (more than once), epazote at a 100 yards, and has an uncanny ability to perceive danger. Like the time we were camped out at a small mountain lake in a thunderstorm and she smelled smoke just before lightning struck a tree on the other side of the lake and caught it on fire. Fortunately, for us, rain doused the fire before the forest could go up in flames.
The other night, while preparing dinner, Mrs. H asked me if I noticed an unusual smell in the house. I did not - at first anyway. We chose to ignore it for awhile but then decided something was amiss and started to investigate. It didn't take long to figure out we were having our first chimney fire. Our home is heated solely with wood and pellets so careful attention is placed on the potential for fire by keeping both chimneys cleaned and free of creosote and always having fresh batteries in the smoke detector.
It turned out that the odor was coming from the chimney which is fitted with a wood stove insert. I immediately shut the draft. The bricks above the stove were really hot and apparently the creosote inside was having a slow burn, it may have been a roaring fire if we had not been home to shut it down. That night I stayed up until about 2:00 AM waiting for the bricks to cool off and make sure that the buildup in the chimney had burned out.
Normally, I clean the chimney for the wood stove every fall just before we start using it but apparently It needs to be done more than once a year and going forward I will clean it at the end of every January as well. Each spring we cut about 10 cords of wood, mostly dead fir and tamarack, but this year we ended up with an abundance of white pine instead...perhaps the culprit of the excess buildup.
The following day I cleaned out the chimney and the noticed "puffy" creosote, which is a definite sign that we had a fire.
If you are using a wood stove please check out these links as it is around this time of year that enough buildup has accumulated in the chimney to start a fire.