Clean Your Chimney Before Santa Comes

Yesterday was my last shift in this series, and it made out to be a busy one. I had twelve hours off on Friday and was able to decorate the house with my girlfriend. Since I wasn’t working the full shift, it made this series fly by. Needless to say, I don’t always do the best with my work-out routine and diet during the holidays. The past couple weeks I have been out of it due to my New York trip and Thanksgiving.

You can read about my New York Trip by clicking HERE for Part 1, HERE for Part 2, and HERE for Part 3.

Out of our main station, we run two engines and a ladder. The two engines are staffed with three personnel each, and the ladder, well it just has a driver on it. We alternated running medical calls in Zone 1 between the two engines. One engine will run medical for 3 shifts, and then the other engine will run medical the next three shifts. Yesterday, I was on Engine 1 and we were on Medical. Of course, both engines end up running the majority of the fire calls depending on the location of it.

While with my volunteer department growing up, I came accustomed to running several chimney fires during the winter months. I think it’s safe to say that I haven’t run as many with the city as I have back home. My volunteer department carries chimney bombs (purple K powder packaged in to zip-lock bags that can be dropped down the chimney to extinguish the fires). We also carry a Chimney Snuffer that is a rubberized hose with a tip that is similar to a distributor nozzle. It allows a small amount of water to spray out in several different directions to extinguish the fires that are difficult to reach.

We had a fairly slow shift all day with only running a few medical calls up til about 5pm. I was surprised that things had been so slow on the medical side of things, and was thankful that I was able to get my workout in. Around 5pm, units were dispatched to a possible chimney fire in Zone 7. Typically, our first due engine responds emergency traffic to the call while the additional engines respond routine until advised otherwise. There are some exceptions to this, depending on dispatch information, multiple calls, smoke in the area, etc.

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Engine 7 arrived in the area with heavy smoke showing from the chimney and light smoke found in the residence. At this time, all the responding units stepped up to an emergency response. Crews quickly made access to the fireplace and roof to investigate further. We were able to knock the fire down by spraying a Purple K extinguisher up into the chimney using the draft of air flowing from the bottom. Due to having limited access to the chimney area, it makes it difficult to extinguish this type of fire. We ended up calling for a local volunteer department to respond with some “chimney bombs” that I spoke of earlier.

I hope that we have come to realize the need for these on our apparatus. No matter if you’re a city department or volunteer department in the county, I personally believe that there is a need for these to be carried on the trucks. Yesterday was a prime example of how we could have used them without having to call for mutual aid. Luckily, the volunteer departments in our area are always great to help out and provide assistance when needed. Many of them have several active members that provide a quick response when needed.

This poses the question, what type of equipment do you carry on your apparatus to handle such fires similar to this one? Does your department use extinguishers or “chimney bombs”?

Also, let this be a reminder to those of you who are burning wood in a fire place to have your chimneys checked/cleaned to eliminate the likelihood of this happening. The creosote build up in chimneys is usually the cause of chimney fire. This is always more common in the winter times as people start burning in their fire places and haven’t had them cleaned.

Stay safe,

A.B.C.