Glad to have a house

We are very grateful to have our house tonight.  We had a chimney fire tonight, and it always give us pause.

We have had them before.  We burn LOTS of wood.  LOTS.  We burn those chimney sweep logs too.  They help.  But when you burn as much wood as we do, and have a 100 yr old house with a very old chimney, the chimney fires are inevitable.

So here is the routine:

We hear the sound of a locomotive…. Steve in living room, me in kitchen.  We both yell “CHIMNEY FIRE!!” in unison.  Steve closed the fireplace screens, and put a little water on the fire to help it not burn quite so hot. I shut the fire door between south end of old part of house and addition that was old studio (soon to be bedroom…  Steve almost took that door off today for part of a remodeling job)  Steve shut the fire door between new studio and breezeway, and other fire doors between breezeway and north end of old part of house.  I ran to get meds, dropped them in purse, grabbed cell phone and camera, closed another bedroom and bathroom door while Steve ran upstairs to close that bedroom door.

We both grabbed coats, slid into boots and ran out back door.  Steve also snuck back in quickly to unlock all the doors.

I stood outside for an hour and a half.  Steve went in twice in the first half hour… till I wouldnt let him anymore.  The second time, he opened the door blinds so he could see in to the fireplace from the breezeway.

This is the longest a chimney fire has ever taken to burn itself out.  Luckily it was 25 degrees instead of 20 below.  During the time it was burning, a neighbor drove up the driveway and asked me….. as I stood in the dark in hat, coat, boots, gloves, and PAJAMAS…. if I knew my chimney was on fire.  I sure do, but I am SO glad you stopped to tell us.  If we hadn’t been home, or hadn’t come to the door,  I hope you would have called 911.  He would have, for sure.  Living in a rural area has the benefit of neighbors taking care of each other!

So….. I hear you wondering what a chimney fire looks like.

When I first went out:

And this is what it looked like from the road…. what my neighbors saw when the drove by:

This is what it looked like the second time Steve went in and I freaked!  I have never seen it look like this before.  (this photo kind of scared Steve I think)

The fire burns from the top, down and often waxes and wanes….  Of course, all we can see is the top of the chimney, outside.

My job is to:

1.  breathe the air outside so my asthma doesn’t kick in from the smoke.

2.  watch to make sure no big blobs of fire catch the roof on fire.  (which means call 911 if the roof catches fire)  Other years, Steve has had to take water buckets to the roof, up a ladder.  Thankfully, not tonight.

These big balls of fire scare the crap outa me.  I watched it roll down the roof through 4 inches of snow.  Kind of like a fire snowball that put itself out in the snow.

And these last two are what it looks like when we know it is just about out.

So the doors and windows in the old part of the house and the old studio are all open, still airing out.  (The double set of fire doors between old part of house and new studio keep ALL smoke out of there.)   I will be doing laundry for DAYS.  Eight quilts in the living room reek of wood smoke, I am sure.  Two big laundry baskets of what WERE clean clothes will need to be washed again.  And towels and linens… and coats and jackets that hang on hooks by the back door.

But I am not complaining.  I am SO GRATEFUL that we have each other, have heat, and a HOME.  Food to cook, a sound roof that didn’t catch fire, a tame fire burning in the fireplace again, and good neighbors to check on us.  Really, who could ask for more?

Laundry is a snap.  We are blessed.


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Diana W
    Dec 20, 2010 @ 22:34:32

    OMG! I would be scared to death, of course, you and Steve knew just what to do and I’m so glad. I am very happy you and Steve and your house are ok tonight. I WILL say a prayer of thanks for that. God bless you both.
    Keep warm!


  2. Gina
    Dec 20, 2010 @ 22:39:41

    Thank God! Wow… I peed my pants just looking at the pics and reading!!! WOW!!


  3. TeresaL
    Dec 20, 2010 @ 22:48:35

    Thankful that you both are safe and that the house did not catch fire. What a frightening thing to have to watch and experience!


  4. Gretchen
    Dec 20, 2010 @ 23:01:11

    Oh my, I am speechless. So glad you are OK.


  5. wendysquilting
    Dec 20, 2010 @ 23:14:54

    Wow Gayle how scary, I’ve heard of chimney fires but didn’t really know much about them til now. I’m sure glad that all is well, someone is watching over you for sure.
    God Bless and Merry Christmas 🙂


  6. Tammie
    Dec 20, 2010 @ 23:33:40

    Holy cow – that is scary! I am glad you are both safe, and your home is okay. If the worst part is the laundry, then you really are lucky. Saying a prayer of thanks for you. I can’t imagine how awful that was for you. I’m just glad everything worked out well.


  7. Judy Whitehead
    Dec 20, 2010 @ 23:52:13

    Thankful you have a house. Thankful that you and Steve have both knowledge and common sense to know how to handle it without panic.

    Extremely thankful to have you as a friend tonight and tomorrow too.


  8. Beth
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 00:47:39

    several things…. come to mind… Have you had a new pipe put in the chimney? do you have a wood stove insert in a fireplace, that you can shutdown (no air flow to choke a flue fire from air), and 3 have you considered a chimney brush… to clean the chimney out between creosote build ups? I used to heat a mobile home with a wood stove… Thinking about that now tells me I was stupid…. but if you use that much wood…. I think I would have a more efficient and safer way to heat. Just asking… Glad you are around to have a Merry Chirstmas… even if you will be doing mountains of laundry.


  9. freda1951
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 10:36:14

    Glad everything is all right Gayle. I would have been scared spitless! We burn wood also, a fireplace insert that burns like a wood stove and I hope we never have a chimney fire.


  10. Yvonne Richard
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 11:17:48

    glad to hear you are ok!


  11. Shelley C
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 12:53:28

    We have the same scenerio here…100+yr old house; all wood heat; northern Maine winters…long and cold.

    Locamotive sound; creasote smell; prayer of thanksgiving! One fire knocked out our chimney years ago…fire dept ripping walls behind chimney looking for damage (making damage too), chimney replaced by insurance. Hubby bought his own chimney cleaning brush and does the chimneys twice a year. Hates going up so high, but we have fewer fires now.


  12. BeckyP
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 13:04:45

    OMG!! I could not have stood there and watched!! I would have had to call the fire department out right away!! You were lucky!!! Glad all is ok!!


  13. Vicki W
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 14:31:30

    Oh my gosh, that’s scary! I have heard of them but never seen one. I agree with you, doing laundry is a small price to pay!


  14. Carie
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 15:19:23

    Gayle, thank goodness you both have the sense to stay calm-ish and do what needed to be done. I’m so glad you are both safe, and you still have your house.


  15. Jami
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 23:53:25

    As a volunteer Fire Fighter in our small hometown, I’m so happy to see you had a happy ending to the chimney fire. All to often “we” see results that aren’t so happy.
    Just a thought for you. As a volunteer, we would rather be called out to a fire like this and be on the way and then get called to stand down than to have the world go to crap and then get called for a fire. From reading your post I know you’ve had several fires like this in the past, but everytime you do have a fire, it weakens the chimney and liner just a little more.
    My 2 cents worth…for what it’s worth.


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