Last night, shortly after having been lit, our soba started to smoke alarmingly. We opened windows and doors, used fans and, after Ashley hit the pipes with a poker and increased the air flow the smoke dispersed and was seen coming out of the chimney. We were not at this stage sure why air was not being drawn, obviously there was a partial blockage somewhere.
This happened several times over the course of the early evening and then, as we were eating dinner, the carbon monoxide alarm went off. We threw everything open and left the building till we were pretty sure it had dispersed. You can’t just turn a soba off. You have to wait for the fire to die down enough to take the burning bucket out of the house. Which we did.
The portable gas heater was brought through from the back house so, at least, we were warm.
This morning we headed for town to buy some of the stuff you burn to clean the chimney (not to be used till the blockage is definitely gone), a mechanical chimney cleaner (a ring of metal with a spring wrapped around it mounted on a stick) and some gloves.
We cleaned what we could, got a load of soot out of the chimney and could see more beyond our reach. We phoned a man with a ladder to do the last offending blockage. As you can see from the photo, this full length ladder was only just long enough to reach the bendy bit. The bendy bit was full of tar. It has been dripping tar onto the road under our terrace for about a week. We initially thought this was oil from someone’s engine which is why we didn’t realise we had a flue problem. We ended up buying a new bendy bit and it was not easy to fit.
We then spent some time reassembling parts of the chimney flue, cleaning out the soba, and using a vacuum cleaner to get rid the soot. Fortunately we had managed to confine the soot to a relatively small area having been able to get the bulk of it straight into a big plastic bag.
There is a moral to this story. Every year in Turkey people die, poisoned by their sobas. We will keep our chimney clean and continue to use our carbon monoxide alarm.