Prevent chimney fires with proper maintenance

Cal Fire asks residents to maintain chimneys annually
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Chimney fires can be a destructive and devastating event for families, but they can also be avoided with regular maintenance.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) is asking those who use their fireplaces or stoves to heat their homes to avoid chimney fires by properly maintaining them on an annual basis.

Cal Fire says the public dismisses maintenance on their fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, pellet stoves and propane stoves -- taking for granted that they’ll work when needed. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, residential heating fires originating in the chimney or chimney flue account for nearly 56 percent of residential building fires across the nation. The majority of these fires occur between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m. during the winter months when use is highest.

Cal Fire offers these tips and issues to be aware of to help families stay safe this winter season.

-- According to the National Fire Protection Association, residents should have their chimney or fireplace professionally cleaned annually. A professionally trained chimney sweep will check the entire system from the roof to the fireplace or wood/pellet/gas stove, including making sure the pipe is properly installed and hasn’t degraded over time. They will clean the entire system and make any needed repairs so that the home can be safely heated.

-- Chimney fires occur throughout the winter when a fire is lit in a stove or fireplace that has not been properly maintained. Creosote builds up over time in the chimney or stove pipe and can catch on fire, which can spread to the roof and/or attic. Stove pipes and chimneys do deteriorate and the surrounding wood in the roof and attic can become compromised and eventually catch on fire.

-- Even if the fireplace isn’t used, animals can nest in a home’s chimney or flue, which can spell disaster if a fire is lit. The smoke will not properly vent and the nest can catch on fire, quickly spreading to the surrounding area.

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