Homeowners Jack and Marsha Timmerman of Brookside in Kansas City, Missouri were shocked when a wax log exploded in their fireplace on the evening of September 17, 2013. Flames ignited flammable creosote in the chimney flue and caused a roaring chimney fire. Mrs. Timmerman had poked the was log in order to break it up so it would go out for the evening, when it exploded.
Mr. Timmerman closed the glass doors, which cut off the air to the fireplace and the fire went out. He called his chimney sweep, Gene Padgitt of HearthMasters, Inc. on September 18 and had the chimney swept to remove the burnt creosote. An inspection revealed that the 32' chimney flue was severely broken and there are cracked and blown out mortar joints in the smoke chamber. The exterior chimney also sustained severe damages due to expansion from the sudden heat of the chimney fire. The total cost for repairs is $11,640.00.
“We didn't read the instructions on the wax log – if we had we would never have disturbed it,” said Jack Timmerman. Wax logs have a warning not to break them apart or a fire can result. Chimney sweep Gene Padgitt does not recommend using wax logs in fireplaces or wood stoves because they produce a sticky substance that creosote adheres to easily, making it more difficult to remove, and causing the homeowners to need to have the chimney swept more often. Most wood stove manufacturers do not warranty their stoves if wax logs are used.
The “Chimney Sweeping” log, which is much different than a wax log used for ambiance, is also a product that Padgitt does not recommend. One of the most important things a chimney sweep does is inspect the chimney to make sure it is suitable for continued service. A log cannot do that. Padgitt also believes that the sweeping log causes creosote to drop down onto the smoke shelf, where it is closer to the fire and more easily ignited. Several of his customers have experienced chimney fires immediately after using the sweeping log.
The Midwest Chimney Safety Council and Chimney Safety Institute of America recommend that chimneys, wood-burning stoves and inserts, and fireplaces be inspected annually and swept as necessary by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. Wood stove flues may need sweeping more often to function properly.