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2017 Clearwater Fire Academy, March 17-18-19

Clearwater Fire Chief's Association is accepting registrations thru March 10 for the annual Clearwater Fire Academy. The registration fee for this year remains the same as last year - $50 (however, the Power Line Safety for Emergency Crews and First Responders course being held Friday evening is free).

Available Courses

Power Line Safety
Ladders and Ventilation
Forcible Entry and Rescue
HazMat Awareness
Rules of Air Management
Fire Apparatus & Pump Maintenance
Rope Rescue Awareness

Firefighter Essentials
Short Handed Fire Tactics
Engine Company Operations
Safety Officer and Accountability
International Fire Code
G-130 / G-190 Wildland Training for Structural Firefighters

Download the full 2017 Clearwater Fire Academy brochure or just the Registration Form, and register today!

Chimney Fire Prevention

By Don Gardner
Fire Prevention Officer
Orofino Fire Department

As more people are returning to heating their homes with wood this year, we need to take a good look at our wood stoves and chimneys. Already this year, Orofino Fire Department has been called out to a number of chimney fires.

A chimney is an important piece of home safety. A chimney vents products of combustion (smoke and carbon monoxide) from your home, and it allows you to heat your home. Don’t take your chimney for granted. We strongly urge you, if you have a stove or fireplace, to check the chimney for any damage that may have occurred in the past heating season. If it is difficult to examine the chimney, have a local chimney repairman, chimney "sweep," or dealer exam it. Schedule a yearly inspection and cleaning of your chimney today. If you have any damage, repair it now!

What is a chimney fire?
Chimney fires begin in your chimney and are fueled by excess creosote, or soot. Creosote is a product of incomplete combustion; it can take many forms: a sooty powder, a hard black glaze, a black tar-like substance, or the appearance of burnt marshmallows. Creosote lines the chimney's walls; this enables the heat venting in the chimney to ignite the creosote.

Chimney fires start in the chimney. Depending on the condition of your chimney, fire can spread through your home through cracks in the chimney's missing or loose mortar; it can also bend metal chimney liners and create cracks. A chimney fire is super-heated, and the fire can also spread through your house through radiant heat. It can easily spread to your rooftop - or to your neighbor's house!

Most chimney fires happen for one simple reason: improper usage and care of wood-burning appliances. (Faulty installation is another key reason, but it ranks a distant second to the first.)

Chimney fires don't have to happen. Here are some ways to avoid them:

  • Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than hard wood versus soft wood considerations).
  • Build smaller, hotter fires that bum more completely and produce less smoke.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash, or Christmas trees; these can spark a chimney fire.
  • Have the chimney inspected and cleaned on a regular basis.
  • Be sure that the chimney and stovepipe were installed correctly in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and local codes.
  • Minimize creosote formation by using proper stove size, and avoid using low damper settings for extended periods of time.
  • Always operate your appliance within the manufacturer's recommended temperature limits. Too low a temperature increases creosote buildup, and too high a temperature may eventually cause damage to the chimney and result in a fire.
  • Frequently look for signs of structural failure.

What to Do if You Have a Chimney Fire
Chimney fires can burn explosively - noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or passersby. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying air plane.However, those are only the chimney fires you know about.

Slow-burning chimney fires don't get enough air or have enough fuel to be as dramatic or visible. But, the temperatures they reach are very high and can cause as much damage to the chimney structure - and nearby combustible parts of the house - as their more spectacular cousins.

If you realize a chimney fire is occurring, follow these steps:

  1. Get everyone out of the house, including yourself.
  2. Call the fire department.

If you can do so without risk to yourself, these additional steps may help save your home. Remember, however, that homes are replaceable, but lives are not:

  1. Close the damper or the air inlet controls to the fireplace or stove. This will limit air supply and reduce the fire's intensity.
  2. Grab your fire extinguisher (you do have one, right?). Open the door to the fireplace or stove just enough so you can insert the extinguisher's nozzle. Shoot the contents of the entire canister inside and shut the door. What you don't want to use is water. It could make things worse by causing more steam and gas to enter the chimney, which could crack or warp it.

A quick way to snuff out a chimney fire is to use a chimney-fire suppressor available under several brand names. These devices snuff out flames by filling the chimney with a mixture of gases that rise up the chimney and cut off the oxygen supply to the fire. If you use your fireplace regularly, it might be worth keeping some of them around.

Don't go inside your home until the fire department tells you it's safe to do so. When you do, don't be surprised if things don't look very good. A large chimney fire can dump a great deal of smoke and soot inside.

DO NOT light another fire in the stove or fireplace until you've had the chimney professionally inspected and repaired!!!

Additional Tips
When removing ashes from your home:

  • Make sure the ashes have thoroughly cooled.
  • Dispose of ashes a sealed metal container.
  • Always store ashes away from your home and other combustibles.
  • Do not store the container in your home or on your wood deck.

Most of us do take our chimney for granted. Like an old favorite, we know it's there, it never breaks, and it never lets us down - always reliable. This year let’s give it a little attention and prevent chimney fires.

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Orofino Fire Department