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  • Water on chimney fires?

    Recently I read an ad in Fire Apparatus magazine for a collapsable piping system with a nozzle at the end of it that is supplied by a garden hose. I was always told not to introduce water into a chimney fire because it will blow the chimney out. When the flue block gets super heated and brick when water is applied it pops separated like shale in a fireplace. We as fire fighters have to protect property jkust as lives. Now this made be a last resort type measure but it sounds extreme. With blowing out the chimney and not getting the fire out it could very easily spread throughout the wall. A thermal Imaging camera would help in this sense but not all companies have them. A fire in a wall is as we all know a pain in the [email protected]#. Why take that chance? Any and all feed back welcomed.

    stay safe!!

  • #2
    Well once again I will be asking Santa for a Thermal Camera. But not holding my breath again this year.lol. We have always had good luck using the Chimflex extinguisher units. Once the visible fire is out we take a set of old tire chains and run then down the sides of the flue pipe looking for possible cracks or holes. And if possible we even get inside the attic to check for extension. Or if you don’t have the Chimflex you can use an ABC extinguisher from the bottom of the chimney. As far as putting water down a chimney that’s not a good thing not only does it do damage to the building but have you ever seen the mess that it makes inside the home?


    • #3
      on wood heaters,and fireplaces with a chimney fire we use ice cubes on to the hot coals, the ice melting causes steam which rises into the flue and helps put out the fire.


      • #4
        If it truely is a last ditch operation, isn't it better to loose the chimney and save the house attatched to it? Sometimes we have to cut our losses and get ahead of the curve. If you have already used your chimflex and dry chem, then what? Water certainly isn't the first choice, but I would rather have the homeowner repair a flue than rebuild their home.
        *edit- preferably a 2-1/2 gal from the firebox, not a 1-3/4"!! I don't want to imply we flush the chimney onto the floor!

        [This message has been edited by SFD-129-3 (edited 06-03-2001).]


        • #5
          Um, as long as the flue is intact, the home probably is in little danger.

          I know a lot of departments use water and like the results. I know other departments like to "shoot and forget" a dry chem up the flue and leave.

          I don't. I believe both neglect one of the essential functions of firefighting -- overhaul.

          Water turns the creosote into a muddy mess that can't be cleaned properly until it drys -- possibly several days away. The ice cube trick does sound interesting, and I'll tuck it away in the back of my play book. But direct water into the chimney?

          Knock it down with Chimfex and dry chem baggies or extinguishers, then clean it out. That way you know you don't still have burning creosote below the surface, which could be very bad if there's already a crack in the flue behind that smouldering creosote.

          Once the fuel (creosote) has been removed from the flue, you can be certain it won't rekindle.


          • #6
            Ditto here also Dalmation. I've have used the "Chimney Bombs" (plastic bags filled w/ dry chem) w/ very good results. Normally if there is active fire in the chimney, we first extinguish the fire in the box w/ a water can (very light w/ the water), remove as much as we can in a cinder bucket, and then if there is still high heat or active fire in the chimney drop 1 or 2 down the chimeny, the heat melts the plastic and the dry chem w/ spread out. If they fall through, not enough heat. Then we take the chain, which is a 50 ft. chain w/ 3 small 6-8" pieces off of that, and chain the chimney to remove some of the creosote and build up. Some of the newer guys, don't like this and call it free chimney cleaning, but I call it taking care of the problem, you hopefully won't have to come back in an hour when they fire it up again.

            The above is my opinion only and doesn't reflect that of any dept/agency I work for, deal with, or am a member of.


            • #7
              In addition to good old fashioned chimney chains to break up soot and creosote we use the Jaffrey Chimney Snuffer Nozzle to apply water to chimney fires. We have been using this system for well over 10 years with great success and no chimney damage that I'm aware of. The following is taken from their website.

              The Snuffer Kit
              This eleven inch, five pound, all–aluminum device reduces the time of chimney fire knockdown. Easily operated by one person, this amazing chimney fire extinguisher allows eight strategically placed nozzles to spray 2.66 quarts of water per minute at 60 psi.
              Includes: Snuffer Nozzle, Ball Shut-Off Valve, 12" Steel Extension Arm, 25 Feet of 1" Hose, Easy Access Case

              Mike Gentili, Capt.
              New Bedford Fire Dept.


              • #8
                Then there is the use of PPV to put out the fire. Set up the fan to pressure the room that the fireplace is in. Send a crew up to the attic with a hoseline. Start the fan and shoot a dry chemical extinguisher into the firebox. The airflow from the fan sweeps the chemical up the flue. A spotter outside can see when it takes effect. The guys in the attic are there in case the integrity of the flue becomes challenged.


                • #9
                  mfgentili- here is what I have used which is similar to what you have...

                  Originally posted by jizumper-5:
                  Boosters have their place. We use them for trash fires but more specifically chimney fires.
                  Let me explain. We have a 25' section of booster attached to a conical weight with "misters" on the end (aka a snuffer nozzle). We drop it down the chimney like the old weights to clear out a path while misting a light foam to snuff out the fire. Uses very little water and we have not seen any cracking or damage tot he chimney structure. Does a really good and quick job.
                  Just another use for a booster we picked up.
                  Disadvantage: You have to replace the 25' section once in a while. For us about once a year and we have 2 units in service.

                  Very little water is the key! We also use a pump mister to make the steam to put out the flue fires. Never had really much damage from the water. Usually the fire has extended past the chimney by that time and the bricks cracked.

                  As for the ice trick, I have seen something similar work. A member got to a chimney fire about 5 minutes prior to the engine (fire way out in our district). He cleaned out the box and place wet news paper in it. It worked the same way. I was quite surprised to see the paper in there when I arrived. He explained what he did and it made sense. The moisture on the paper evaped and put out the fire.

                  It just shows there are may ways to skin a cat.

                  Keep Safe!

                  [This message has been edited by jizumper-5 (edited 06-04-2001).]


                  • #10
                    I use the old saying, Take away the fuel, and the fire will go out. We use a combo of a few things. 1) Santa was good to us, we use a TIC to see the extent of the fire. 2) Remove all everything from the base with a hot box (tarps and runners in place as well) 3) A chimmney brush on a long wire pole from the top down to break up the soot. I also agree that putting water down a chimmney will cool the brick too fast and possibly break up the integrity of the stack. just my thoughts. Be safe.


                    • #11
                      About 10 years ago I had a chimney fire. The ex started a fire in the wood burner, went outside for more wood, became distracted and forgot to come back in and shut down the vents. I was upstairs and could hear a dull roar and assumed he was doing something in the garage. When the noise continued to build I became curious and went into the extra bedroom to look out the window toward the garage. That's when I realized the noise was coming from the closet. When I opened the door, a blast of heat hit me in the face (the chimney pipe went through that closet to the roof). I ran downstairs and grabbed a "Fire Stick" which I had picked up at Fleet Farm months before. By now the stove vent, which takes a 90 degree turn 2-3 feet above the wood burner, was turning cherry red. I grabbed some oven mitts, popped off the end cap, tossed it in, and closed the doors and vents. (I ended up with a "sunburn" and no hair on my arms.) I called 911 and and grabbed a spray bottle. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was sure it wouldn't be a good idea to toss a bucket of water in there, so I started spritzing water on the hot coals trying to cool it down. It created a steam cloud that was sucked up the chimney and immediately the pipe began to cool down. I tossed in another "fire stick" and shut the doors.

                      I had an old Victorian home with a very steep roof, extra tall chimney, and powerlines running right along side. My yard was also muddy from watering new sod so it took a while (about 45 min) for the fire department to stabilize the laddder truck and position a ladder to get someone on the roof to drop a sack with chains down the chimney.

                      They told me I probably saved the house. I sold the house shortly afterward and haven't seen this type of fire extinguisher since. All I remember is that the thing looked like a stick of dynamite and was supposed to take the oxygen away from the fire. Are they still around and do you recommend that homeowners get them?


                      • #12
                        We use something similar to the firestick. We call them chimney flares. They light the same as the fusees used on the road. We scoop out the coals and burning material in the firebox and light a flare and toss it in. Then we close the firebox up using either the doors on the front of the fireplace or a peice of plywood. Once the fire is out we seal the fireplace and tag it. The fireplace cannot be used until cleaned and inspected. Seems to work quite well.


                        • #13
                          How do tactics change on newer houses that have metal ducting as a chimney flue rather than traditional brick? I have yet to experience a chimney fire on a newer house.


                          • #14
                            The most effective way I've used is to dump water on the fire in the box. It has put out every chimney fire that I've gone to. It's a very old trick that a an old timer showed me (and I ain't to young myself!!) I'm surprised more of you haven't really heard of it being used. Never tried the ice cube one though. What's the difference (besides being "time released")


                            • #15
                              we tried the process that eyecue talked about after reading about in in the drill download on firehouse. It worked great. Here is the drill as in training link on Firehouse.

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                              Home --> Training Zone --> Drills --> MFRI Drill

                              Basic Firefighting: Extinguishing Chimney Fires With Positive Pressure Ventilation

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                              BOB SCHAPPERT
                              MFRI Institute Development Section

                              Instructor Guide

                              Session Reference: 1

                              Topic: Extinguishing Chimney Fires With Positive Pressure Ventilation

                              Level of Instruction: 3

                              Time Required: 2-3 hours

                              Learning/Teaching Aids:

                              Electric powered PPV blower or gas-powered blower
                              A minimum 21-24" in diameter (shroud) for optimal ventilation
                              Dry chemical extinguisher
                              An acquired structure with chimney intact or training center structural building with chimney area
                              Streamers and theatrical smoke generator (optional) if an acquired structure is not available]
                              If PPV blowers not available, use smoke ejectors stacked and reverse direction
                              Fire department pumper equipped with structural firefighting hose-lines and a water source
                              Behaviors to Foster:

                              Understand the reasoning behind not placing personnel on a pitched roof during periods of inclement weather to extinguish chimney fires.
                              Understand the process of chimney fire extinguishment using PPV and a dry chemical extinguisher.
                              Understand that PPV will not extend chimney fire into uninvolved portions of the structure if traditional firefighting activities are conducted in conjunction with this technique.

                              Task: The student will be able to extinguish a chimney fire on a structure with a pitched roof, functioning as a member of a team.

                              Given: A structure with a chimney, pitched roof, a dry chemical extinguisher, a PPV blower, appropriate fire suppression apparatus, and a supervising officer.

                              Standard: So that personnel are eliminated from roof activities, a working chimney fire is effectively extinguished using PPV and a dry chemical extinguisher, and any potential for fire spread through fractures/breaches in the flue system is prevented and held in check.

                              Prerequisite Knowledge:

                              Chimney construction
                              PPV blowers and positive pressure ventilation tactics
                              Firefighting strategies for interior attack
                              Dry chemical extinguishers
                              Fire spread/behavior
                              Prerequisite Skills:

                              Ability to relate extinguishment strategies to chimney fire scenarios
                              Ability to teach before an audience - verbally and in written format
                              Ability to direct the extinguishment efforts of a team assigned to interior operations
                              Ability to determine potential paths for fire spread
                              Ability to stop any potential fire spread from a chimney fire into the actual structure




                              Extinguishing a working chimney fire with PPV and a dry chemical extinguisher is a relatively easy task to perform. It eliminates the need for placing personnel in harms way with extended roof operations, especially during periods of inclement weather. Typical chimney fire operations take between 1-11/2 hours to mitigate. PPV and a dry chemical extinguisher will cut the extinguishment activity to 10-15 minutes because it is much less labor intensive.

                              Objective (SPO):

                              The student will function as a member of an interior attack team, will extinguish a chimney fire using positive pressure ventilation, a dry chemical extinguisher, and the required hoselines in place from a fire department pumper to the satisfaction of the instructor.


                              Extinguishing Chimney Fires With Positive Pressure Ventilation

                              Chimney Construction Features
                              Check for Extension


                              Session 1
                              Extinguishing Chimney Fires With Positive Pressure Ventilation

                              SPO 1-1 The student will function as a member of an interior attack team, will extinguish a chimney fire using positive pressure ventilation, a dry chemical extinguisher, and the required hoselines in place from a fire department pumper to the satisfaction of the instructor.
                              EO 1-1-1 Identify the characteristics of standard chimney construction and its relation to the interior/exterior of a structure.
                              EO 1-1-2 Apply the steps required to successfully extinguish a working chimney fire using PPV and a dry chemical extinguisher.
                              EO 1-1-3 Check for and prevent possible fire extension into an uninvolved structure during PPV operations.


                              Instructional Guide

                              Opener: Call to order; start with a motivator (need to know) related to objectives; state objectives and main points.

                              I. Chimney Construction Features (1-1-1)


                              Solid/waterproof modular concrete block, lined with a fire clay flue or fire clay brick

                              Uses refractory cement mixture to join brick and flue lining

                              Two-three inches is the rule of thumb air space clearance between the interior masonry chimneys and combustible material


                              Single-wall metal chimney or unlisted metal shall not be used inside or outside one and two story single family dwellings

                              May be used on a residential type or low heat appliance such as a pellet stove

                              Must be properly riveted, welded, or bolted, and properly secured to the structure

                              Must also have the proper clearance from structure to prevent pyrolysis

                              Factory built (zero clearance)

                              Pre-engineered and designed to function as a unit

                              Manufacturer provides a special starter section that locks into the collar at the top of the fireplace

                              When passing through combustible material, a fire stop spacer must be used as specified by the manufacturer

                              Replacement (re-lining)

                              Consists of rigid and flexible stainless steel

                              Is placed inside of an existing flue, and surrounded by noncombustible insulations

                              Fireplaces consist of:




                              Smoke Dome

                              Smoke shelf







                              Ash pit


                              II. Extinguishment (1-1-2)>

                              Conduct a size-up in accordance with established SOPs (AHJ)

                              Conduct interior size-up of fireplace and upper/lower floor space in structure

                              Advance attack lines into first floor and upper floor(s) as directed and standby

                              If interior environment is smoke filled, monitor air samples for CO levels and don SCBA

                              Remove contents from firebox and extinguish outside of structure with water

                              Place PPV blower at appropriate door nearest fireplace and close off the rest of the house or door isolating fireplace room from rest of structure

                              Start up blower and run at 1/2 to full rpm as required to facilitate chimney drafting

                              Place dry chemical extinguisher hose in fireplace

                              Aiming it up the flue opening

                              Discharge the product in 1-2 second bursts

                              Be careful not to prolong this process as the product will be heavy and fall back down into the firebox area

                              Monitor the drafting process while discharging the extinguisher

                              Place a spotter outside the structure to monitor product egress from the top of the chimney cap area

                              III. Check for Extension (1-1-2)

                              Send attack crews to upper floors and attic areas with charged hoselines, to ensure that extension has not occurred (Use 11/2 - 13/4" hoselines)

                              No booster lines

                              No PW cans

                              Use a mirror device to check for flue extinguishment

                              Advise homeowner to have a professional chimney company come out to perform an inspection before it is used again

                              Do not forget to clean up the mess before leaving a structure



                              Student Performance Objective (SPO):

                              The student will function as a member of an interior attack team, will extinguish a chimney fire using positive pressure ventilation, a dry chemical extinguisher, and the required hoselines in place from a fire department pumper to the satisfaction of the instructor.


                              Chimney Construction Features
                              Check for Extension




                              Oral Review: Under each review point, recall and list three features from the discussion. Make a note of these points or highlight points in your notes so you may use them for exam review.

                              Other Evaluation: Instructor may use course quizzes, if any, or create and use lesson quizzes and other learning reinforcements. Quizzes are diagnostic and may be given as in-class group assignments to generate discussion or as home assignments and used as review prior to starting the next session

                              Copyright © 1998 Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. All rights reserved.

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