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December 10, 2018

Good morning crew,

stockingsutffLast night the wife and I decided to retire to the basement and build a nice, cozy, little fire to snuggle up next to and relax.

That's when I discovered I still have something to learn about building fires. Because about 90 seconds into the process the basement filled with acrid white smoke which hung in a thick layer up against the ceiling.

The wife, displaying an unusual amount of calm, asked, "Is it supposed to do that?"

I scrambled to check and make sure that damper was open and then pulled the little, glass doors shut, but by then the damage was done.

I have lit fires in the fireplace before, and while there is always a little escaped smoke, I have never seen it billowing out of the fireplace like it did this time.

I opened windows and turned on an exhaust fan while the wife opened the bottle of wine she had brought down. Then, eyes stinging from the smoke and our bodies shivering from the draft, we toasted a nice, romantical evening.

So this morning I looked up the procedure for lighting a fire in a fireplace (while I should have been working) and discovered some very helpful tips that I had never thought of before.

The first is; if you are building a fire in cold weather, and chances are you are, then the air inside the flue or chimney is probably cold. Once you start a roaring fire all of that combustion needs oxygen and it is going to pull it straight down that cold chimney and right into your room, along with several cubic meters of wood smoke.

So you have to warm the air in the flue. The page I read recommended holding some burning newspaper up the flue. Once the air is warm it will naturally rise instead of sink, and when you start your fire it will draw air from the room and send it up the chimney instead of vice versa.

The other tip that made a lot of sense to me was to crack a window BEFORE you start the fire. And for pretty much the same reason as above. All of the combustion will be drawing air from somewhere. If you are in a sealed room the fire will naturally draw air from the direction of least resistance, that being down the chimney. Having a window cracked will allow greater air pressure inside the room than up the chimney.

There are other tips like; use seasoned wood, make sure the damper is opened, don't use diesel fuel as an accelerant, etc, stuff everybody knows, but the two tips I just mentioned I simply hadn't thought of before and they really made sense to me once I read them.

So, armed with this new knowledge I am eager to try another fire, but for the time being we have to let the smell of smoke inside the house dissipate a bit. Right now it's like coming home to a log cabin.

But, at least none of the neighbors called the fire department on us.

Laugh it up,


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Wearily I walked back to the station. "You know," the attendant suggested helpfully, "instead of walking back and forth to fill the tank from the can, you could put a couple of gallons in the tank and then drive the car here."

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