The biggest danger you can experience from a woodburning fireplace is a chimney fire. This is caused from a buildup of creosote in the flue catching fire.
Creosote is a highly combustible wood byproduct released in the combustion process, and is black or brown in apperarance. It may be thick and tar-like, sticky, flaky, or shiny and hardened.
Chimney fires do not have to happen. Here are some ways to avoid them:
• Have the chimney inspected and cleaned regularly (the Australian Home Heating Association recommends once a year).
• Use only dry seasoned wood (dryness is more important than hardness).
• Never burn cardboard boxes, christmas paper or rubbish in the fire, as the sparks can set off chimney fires.
• Build smaller, hot fires that burn more thoroughly and produce less smoke.
You may have had a chimney fire, or may be in danger of having one if:
• You have "puffy" creosote with rainbow coloured streaks.
• Warped metal.
• Cracked or collapsed flues.
• Discoloured or distorted rainhat.
• Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground.
• Roofing material damaged from hot creosote.
• Cracks in masonry.
• Evidence of smoke escaping through glues, firebox or masonry.
If you have a chimney fire
Evacuate the house
Call the fire department