"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

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.


anne said...

oh dear, that s scarey...I have been through a bad one years ago.
Glad to hear that it didn't get out of hand . Thanks for the reminder: it is time.

Chiot's Run said...

Thanks for joining our Dress Up 2 Cure group. We really appreciate your participation.

Chimney fires are scary, glad you caught it so soon! A great lesson for all of us who read your blog!

Mr. H said...


It did make me a bit nervous, and we will hopefully not to not have to deal with it ever again...now that I am more aware.


Mr. H said...

Chiot's Run,

We are happy to participate, it sounds like a worthy cause.

We were really lucky to have caught it. The chimney still took about eight hours to cool down after I shut off as much air to it as I could. Lesson learned.


sierraseven said...

Have you considered using "Red Devil" creosote remover? It's a catalyst that you use by adding a spoonful to your fire regularly, it causes the creosote to burn off at a lower temperature and thus you get rid of it regularly and it does not build up. I currently have natural gas heat but for many years heated with wood. I used Red Devil faithfully, and then I would tap on the stovepipe about once a week and the catalyzed creosote would fall down in small flakes. In the summer when I had no fire going I would take apart the stovepipe to check for damage and buildup and it would always be clear of buildup. Just a suggestion.

Mr. H. said...

Sierraseven - Thanks for the information. We have been burning much hotter fires with better and drier wood since that incident and have not had too much buildup. That said, I did purchase a product very similar to Red Devil you recomended that we use as necessary.

Related Posts with Thumbnails