Chimneys should be prepped, inspected for winter

With cold winter nights on the horizon, people are turning on their heaters, lighting up their fireplaces and bundling up for warmth.

Staying warm brings added danger of fire, but it’s a danger that’s easily preventable with proper maintenance and by reading directions, Danville Fire Chief Ken Plug said.

“Get your fireplace inspected and cleaned regularly,” Pflug said.

That can help prevent creosote build up and ensure the fireplace is in proper working order.

That’s typically one cause of fireplace fires, he said — creosote build up, which can come from the use of improperly seasoned wood.

“Use the proper fuel, preferably an oak or a maple. Not a ‘sappy’ wood,” Pflug said.

It’s also important to use a good cover on a fireplace to keep sparks from flying out and to keep children away so they don’t put things in the fire or get burned.

If you’ve recently bought a house or haven’t used a fireplace since last winter, it’s important to get it inspected to make sure it’s working properly.

Having a chimney “doesn’t mean it’s a proper chimney,” Pflug said.

Chimneys can get overheated and crack. Older chimneys are especially at risk for cracking. It’s not always visible from the outside, which is why it’s important to get it inspected, he said.

Pflug said the Danville Fire Department dealt with only a few house fires caused by chimneys last year.

Inspections and proper maintenance go for any heating source, he said. Furnaces need inspections once a year and filter replacements regularly, for example. Even HVAC units should be inspected once a year.

It’s not uncommon when furnaces are turned on to experience a burning smell, which comes from dust burning. But it’s still OK to call, Pflug said. In fact, he encourages it.

“We will come out and will bring our (thermal imaging camera),” he said. “If you don’t know, ask, call. Always call.”

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.