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Clean Your Chimneys Properly to Prevent Fires

Take caution before heating up your home.

It's Fire Prevention Week, and it's also the time of year when temperatures drop and residents prepare to warm up their homes for the winter.

That can be deadly if not done properly.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, about 35 percent of home fires are linked to home heating.

Cleaning your chimney properly is key. Many fires are caused by creosote -- resin created from burning wood and coal -- which builds up in thick layers over time and can ignite.

Last year we spoke with North Andover Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas about the importance of proper chimney maintenance. There are several things people can do to prevent or manage chimney fires.

1. Each year, as temperatures drop in the fall, have your chimney thoroughly inspected by a licensed professional. Make sure there are no holes or cracks in the flu. If the chimney is in good condition when a chimney fire ignites, Melnikas said, then the fire can burn out without the walls igniting.

"If the flu is in good condition, then once it burns out you'll still be OK," Melnikas said. "There are some homes out there that if they even have a flu in there, it's in need of repairs."

2, Get a licensed chimney sweep to clean your chimney each year before you use it. This includes clearing the flu of dirt and debris as well as creosote. And a chimney sweep can tell you after cleaning if any more safety measures need to be taken.

3. When you burn wood, make sure it is seasoned wood and not wet. Wet wood creates more creosote build-up.

4. Make sure all your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors work on each floor. Massachusetts law requires smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors be present and functioning in all homes. And these devices can save lives if smoke or gases are leaking from a chimney into the rest of the house.

5. If you suspect you may have a chimney fire, call the Fire Department. The Fire Department has devices and know-how to detect chimney fires, and it is better to be on the safe side.

Jean October 12, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Nice article, but just one note. There is no licensing for chimney sweeps in the State of Massachusetts. The Mass. Chimney Sweep Guild highly recommends you hired a sweep who is "Cerified" by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. You can find one in your area at either www.mcsguild.org or www.csia.org

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