A local chimney inspector found a severe fire hazard at a home at the 6000 block of West 102nd Court in Overland Park, Kansas on Monday, March 10, 2014 during a routing annual inspection. The inspector, Gene Padgitt of HearthMasters, Inc. said that birds built a flammable nest in the vent serving a direct vent gas fireplace, and packed the material solidly inside the vent holes. Some charred areas were found inside the vent pipe. Nesting material is flammable, which is a fire risk. During use of the fireplace, the vent gets hot and can ignite any combustibles inside the vent.
Direct vent fireplaces use a vent which is installed above and behind the fireplace and exits an exterior wall of the building A cover usually keeps birds and other creatures out of the interior, but in this case birds got around it anyway. There were no tenants living in this rental home at the time. The owner was notified of the problem and was glad that he had the fireplace inspected when he did and before a house fire occurred.
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends that all fireplaces, including all types of gas fireplaces, be inspected annually by a professional chimney sweep/inspector, and that if no inspector is available the homeowner should take the exterior vent cover off and check the interior and top of the vent for flammable nesting materials.
The MCSC website states that even when fireplaces are installed correctly there can be problems develop later on that are hazardous. Direct vent gas fireplace vents are particularly vulnerable to birds because they create a warm space that the birds want to be in or near when it is cold. These newer types of appliances may need to have a different type of exterior vent design in order to prevent bird nest hazards.