Soot on gas water heater?

This unit was on an open carport. They had sheet metal surrounding the burner opening. I think wind could be causing this.

yep, looks like flame roll out, maybe from wind blowing down the flue pipe.

If you remove the sheet metal and get down on your knees and put your face near the burner area, you’ll know when the thing kicks on if it’s flame roll out or not. :lol:

What a friend you are.

Soot means CO is being produced. CO kills. Shut off the gas and call a gas appliance service person