Clean chimneys now to stay safe and prevent damage

Chimney preparation

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Smoke is coming from chimneys across the region for the first time this season after the recent cold snap.

Along with the warm glow that comes with a cozy fire can also come some serious consequences for your family if the fireplace hasn't been maintained properly.

There's nothing like a warm fireplace on a chilly night. But before you stoke your fire for the first time, experts tell us don't take for granted everything will be in working order.

Mike Hill, assistant Fire Marshal for the Johnson City Fire Department, gave us some advice. "You need to go ahead and get with a trained professional chimney sweep and let them take care of cleaning it and inspecting your chimney for any cracks or problems that may come with age or use," he explained.

It could be a matter of pay now or pay dearly later.

Dan Perry is a professional chimney sweep in Johnson City. He says neglecting your chimney can cost "anywhere from $125 to several thousand dollars in repairs."

We tagged along with Perry as he made his rounds for the chimney service and repair business he owns.

He shows us a place where the only thing between the home and a fire is -- "A brick," he says. "That's all that is to the chimney is just a brick. They have just built what is called a chase or hollow area. There is nothing between the house and a chimney fire but one brick."

After your chimney passes inspection, Hill says there are also ways to stay proactive throughout the season. "It's a good idea to use hard woods," he said. "Do not use anything like pine that is high in resin content. That will accelerate the buildup of creosote."

Creosote is a gummy, foul-smelling, corrosive and extremely combustible substance. Officials say it is the cause of most chimney fires and the main reason chimneys and pipes have to be cleaned and inspected periodically.

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