We sweep our chimneys every year after the winter, but often not much soot comes out. After a chimney fire about 15 years ago, I assumed we were using drier wood and less soot was being generated, but I was wrong. The first image shows my view of the house from half way round the lake, when I saw black smoke emerging in huge volumes from the Great Hall chimney. As I was without mobile telephone (there would probably have been no signal anyway), I ran, or more like jogged, back as fast as I could to raise the alarm in case the fire was not obvious to those inside.
I found that the Fire Brigade was already on its way, and the firemen soon started rodding the chimney when they arrived. It is probably at least 70ft high, and so extra rods had to be summoned from another appliance, along with an electronic heat detector to check for any hot spots on the walls through which the chimney passed. There was some smoke in the adjacent areas, but, strangely, not enough to set off the smoke alarms.
The rodding worked up to a point, but the fire roared on, so we decided to pour water down the chimney. After a brief, but tense, search for the key to the door to the Keep roof, we emptied numerous buckets of water down the chimney, though most of the contents came straight back in the form of steam. Eventually, a fire hose reached us, and the fire was quenched, without doing any obvious damage to the interior decoration of the house. The second image gives an idea of the height of the chimney, though sadly the extended ladder could not get close enough to the house to be useful.
On advice from the Fire Officer in charge, we have now had the chimney inspected with a CCTV camera. We have found the ledge where the soot accumulated, away from the sweeping brushes, and will almost certainly have the chimney lined to protect the fabric of the house in case of another fire. It was all quite dramatic, but the efficiency of the Fire Brigade was re-assuring. In future, we will have to use a professional firm of chimney sweeps and have camera inspections on a regular basis.
JH-B 19th December 2013