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How to Put Out a Furnace Fire Fast

Your furnace is a critical component of your household’s heating system, but what happens when it malfunctions? As frightening as it sounds, furnace fires do happen.

Here at ServiceMaster of Lake Shore, we tackle the aftermath of furnace fires every winter in Chicago, so we’re familiar with what it takes to recover from a furnace fire, and how to avoid them in the first place. 

In this post, we’ll discuss what causes furnace fires, tips to prevent them, and what to do if a furnace fire does occur.

Let’s dive in.

3 Signs Your Furnace is Going to Explode

furnace fire signs

Furnace fires generally start when an old, malfunctioning, or broken furnace explodes into flames. To prevent that from happening, keep an eye out for these faulty furnace warning signs:

1. Your furnace emits a strange smell

A furnace that smells like gas, burning plastic, smoke, or rotten eggs is a red flag. If you notice any abnormal smell that does not go away after a few minutes of operation, there’s likely a serious problem with the furnace. To prevent a fire or explosion, turn off the unit and contact an HVAC professional to inspect the heating system. 

2. Your pilot light is a strange color

A pilot light that’s operating efficiently should glow blue. If your light is glowing a different color, such as yellow or red, though, it could indicate a ventilation problem with your furnace.

This is a danger sign since ventilation issues prevent gases from dissipating appropriately. This, in turn, can cause a buildup of deadly carbon monoxide. In addition to putting your family at risk, ventilation issues can also cause your furnace to become combustible. 

3. You’re hearing odd noises

Even new, hyper-efficient furnaces don’t operate silently. That said, you should never hear whistling, squealing, banging, or groaning noises from your furnace. If you hear any of these problematic sounds, it could indicate a dangerous problem with the heating unit. 

How to Stop a Furnace Fire 

The worst has happened, and your furnace is on fire. Keep calm and follow these tips:

  • Shut down the fuel source. The single most important step to controlling the fire and preventing extensive damage is to shut down the fuel source. Depending on the fuel source your furnace uses, shut off the main gas or oil supply lines, or flip the main electrical breaker to your home. Deprived of fuel, some furnace fires will just go out on their own. 
  • Use a fire extinguisher. If the fire is spreading, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher to control the blaze. Only take this step if you’re sure the area is safe for you, and that the furnace is not at risk of exploding.
  • Call the fire department. Even if the flames are out, the fire department should arrive to check the furnace for additional hazards and ensure there’s no problem with the gas or electrical supply lines that could result in a secondary fire. 

Once you’ve taken the steps above, contact ServiceMaster of Lake Shore if you’re in the Chicago area. Our team will provide restoration services to repair the damage caused by the furnace fire. 

How Common are Furnace Fires? 

Heating equipment is the leading cause of house fires in the US. Fires caused by furnaces and other heating equipment cause annual losses of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in property damage. 

Nearly half of all home heating fires occur during the coldest months of the year – December, January, and February. 

Why do Furnaces Catch Fire? 

worn down furnace

It’s rare for new furnace units to catch fire. Instead, the units that cause problems are generally old, poorly maintained, or faulty. These furnaces tend to catch fire for one of the following reasons:

  • Poor air flow. Dirty air filters prevent air flow through the furnace unit. This, in turn, causes the furnace to work harder and can lead to an overheated motor. 
  • Dirt buildup. Over time, dirt can build up around the motor and trap heat inside. Eventually, this could lead to a fire. 
  • Faulty parts. Faulty parts, bad wiring, and improper installation can all increase a furnace’s fire risk. 
  • Tight or worn motor bearings. Improperly lubricated motor bearings can trap heat and lead to a furnace fire. 

3 Tips to Prevent Furnace Fires

Use these tips to prevent furnace fires in your home:

1. Invest in regular maintenance

Routine maintenance is critical to keep your furnace safe and in good working order. With this in mind, have your furnace inspected regularly and replace your unit at the end of its lifespan (a well-maintained furnace will last 15-20 years). An ongoing maintenance contract can help you save money in the long run and prevent furnace fires. 

2. Clean your flues

Your furnace flues should be clean and free of buildup. By ensuring proper ventilation, you can decrease the likelihood of both furnace fires and toxic gas buildup in your home. 

3. Keep the space around the furnace clear

Flammable materials like paper, drapery, clothing, and dried leaves should never be kept near your heating system. Generally, we recommend leaving at least 3 feet between combustible items and any type of heating equipment. 

Dealing with the Aftermath of a Furnace Fire in Chicago, IL, or Suburbs? We Can Help!

When a furnace fire strikes, it can cause extensive damage. Fortunately, our team is here to help.

Here at ServiceMaster of Lake Shore, we provide fire damage restoration services to Chicago homeowners that will help you recover after a furnace fire.

Don’t wait – reclaim your space and get life back to normal. Contact us today to learn more about our team or services, or to request your consultation now.

    Get Help Now

    (312) 707-8597


    Our office is located in downtown Chicago, IL just west of Millennium Park, nearby Willis Tower and Magnificent Mile. We provide 24 hour emergency fire and water damage cleanup to all of Chicagoland including Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Gold Coast, Lake View, Magnificent Mile and Little Village. We also provide a variety of specialty cleaning services.