Making sure your chimney is clean

Posted at: 01/16/2013 6:02 PM
Updated at: 01/16/2013 7:54 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Cleaning out chimneys is vital to safety when it comes to using a wood-burning fireplace or stove.

Before you go to light a fire, the first thing you want to do is make sure there are no cracks anywhere on the surrounding cement or glass.

While it may look clean inside, with no ashes, inspectors say it is what you cannot see that is the real fire hazard.

On any given day, Gilbert Gonzales, owner of CBS Chimney Sweepers, gets an up close and personal inspection of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves.

"What we're going to do, first of all, is we seal up the opening of the stove, so when we brush the chimney we don't get soot and dust into the home," Gonzales said.

This is all part of a routine chimney sweep, the only sure way to prevent a chimney fire, Gonzales said.

"A chimney fire can get up to 2,100 degrees," Gonzales said.

After the prep inside, Gonzales climbs onto the roof with a ladder and begins work on the actual chimney using a long metal pole with large bristles, to brush the inside.

"We're going to brush everything down into the wood stove," Gonzales said.

A quarter inch of soot build up on the inside of the chimney cap is a good indicator of what the inside of the chimney lining looks like as well.  An eighth to quarter inch of soot build up is considered a huge fire hazard.

"That's enough to create an extreme chimney fire," June, Gonzales' wife, said.

All the black soot is the bi-product of smoke that is collected and cooled each time you use your fireplace.

"It causes the chimney to get smaller as the soot builds up," June said.

It can only take a few seconds for a single spark to ignite it.

"It does make a very loud sound that's woo, woo, woo, woo... it's a bad sound, you know, and if your chimney becomes a volcano of hot ash and fire shooting out," June said, as she described what happens if your chimney catches fire.

After Gonzales finished scraping the inside of the chimney, the wood-burning stove was filled with a pile of black soot, the remains of what was scraped from the chimney...and a potential fire hazard, eliminated.

"The biggest hazard is forgetting how wonderful that heat has a danger behind it," June said.