Check Your Chimney Before This Year's First Fire

It is important to have your chimney and fireplace checked by a professional before lighting your first fire of the winter season, according to fire officials.

"We've had a couple of fires because there may have been something wrong in the chimney; too much creosote in the chimney or the chimney needed cleaning or there was a crack," said Assistant Fire Marshal Antoinette Hastings.

Owner of Archangel's Safer Chimneys, Inc. Kevin Connors looks at three main aspects when inspecting a fireplace. First, he checks that any furnishings or curtains are at least 36 inches away if they are within a 45 degree angle of the fire. Then, he looks at the actual structure to check for cracks or damage. Finally, Connors looks up into the flue to check for blockage by debris, birds or creosotes.

Creosotes are left over from word burning in the fireplace, and get stuck on the chimney walls. "They're still flammable and they don't burn up completely and they hang on the inside parts of the chimney and the fireplace, and so they can catch fire," said Connors.

If the chimney catches fire, it can cause the metal to buckle and cave in. For this reason, it is also important to make sure flames do not go higher than the firebox and into the chimney.

While a chimney sweep will clean out a clogged chimney, Connors said it is fine to leave some ash in the base of your fireplace. "Oddly enough, it's actually better if you do have up to about 2 inches of ash. Ash is a good insulator, it absorbs heat, it retains it so the fireplace gives off more heat," said Connors.