Chimney fires threaten Three Rivers homes


When the fall rains come and Cal Fire declares the end to another fire season, Three Rivers residents are by no means out of the woods. Instead of the constant danger of a wildland fire, in winter, structure fires constitute a new threat.

These types of fires are caused primarily by two sources: electrical wiring and chimneys.

Three Rivers apparently escaped the Christmas holidays unscathed but there have been two chimney fires in the past three weeks. The first of these dangerous fires ignited on New Year’s Eve at a 50-year-old Skyline Drive home.    

When firefighters arrived at the residence, no flames were showing but there was excessive smoke inside the dwelling. Small embers were noticed around the chimney area at the ceiling.

Firefighters made access to the ceiling and extinguished the embers. The fireplace insert was removed and embers were extinguished in that area. Lt. Hubbard of the Tulare County Fire Department attributed excessive buildup of creosote as what caused the fire to ignite. Damage was estimated at $5,000.

In a separate chimney fire on Sunday, Jan. 24, at a North Fork Drive home, flames were observed for several minutes in the chimney at the roofline of the 45-year-old two-story house. Firefighters extinguished the fire in the fireplace and remained on the roof until the internal structure of the chimney cooled down to normal temperatures.

No damage was observed to the integrity of the chimney as a result of the burning of the excessive buildup of creosote. The homeowner was instructed not to have any fires until the chimney was cleaned and inspected.  

Anyone who thinks a chimney fire has occurred should call a CSIA-certified chimney sweep for a professional evaluation. If necessary, a certified sweep will be able to make recommendations about how to bring the system back into compliance with safety standards. 

Depending on the situation, a homeowner might need a few flue tiles replaced, a new liner system installed, or an entire chimney rebuilt. 

And clean the chimney regularly. Clean chimneys don’t catch fire.

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